21 Apr 2015

The X Factor NZ: A love triangle

9:17 am on 21 April 2015

This week's recap + a very serious examination of the sexy emotions that are running high on The X Factor NZ. 

Mae Valley, Dominic Bowden and Lili Bayliss.

Mae Valley, Dominic Bowden and Lili Bayliss. Photo: The X Factor NZ

This week on The X Factor NZ the theme was “Celebrities Choose the Songs” and although the producers seem to have a pretty loose grasp on the definition of “celebrity,” it did add an element of excitement to put the contestant’s fates in the hands of whoever happened to be loitering in the Mediaworks carpark at the time of filming.

After the surprise loss of Finlay in last week’s double elimination (and less surprising loss of Joe) the pressure to vote increased from playful invite to stern command and we were treated to some pretty heavy campaigning on the parts of the judges (“Vote Talent. Vote Tonks!”). As ever, the result was unpredictable and Mae Valley were sent home over Lili, a particularly firm slap in the face for our favourite country bumpkins.

In spite of this tragic loss, the week was an uncharacteristically light hearted affair.  The top 13 reassembled to perform their charity single ‘Fight Song’ while Stan performed what felt like every track from his new covers record and did some lovely dancing. There were highs and lows, love and laughter and so forth. Let’s discuss.

Stan Walker performing on The X Factor NZ.

Stan Walker performing on The X Factor NZ. Photo: The X Factor NZ

Opening the performances, Mae Valley’s whole backstage tracking shot thing impressed the judges but to me it came across as kind of amateurish. They did ‘Landslide’ as chosen by Israel Dagg, and I think it probably is quite hard to walk and play instruments at the same time so there is talent there. Perhaps New Zealand is just not quite as amused by Guy Williams cameos as we all thought.

Jay Jay Feeney gave Stevie Tonks’ ‘Hold Back the River’ by James Bay, and his performance was good and powerful as always. My fondness for Stevie was diluted this week, however, by the knowledge that he considers Jay Jay to be “crack-up” and I started to fear that what has appeared to be transcendent genius may in fact just be transcendent basicness. As Stevie seems like a polite man, and no doubt felt obliged to say something favourable about his designated celebrity, I will for now give him the benefit of the doubt, but my brow remains furrowed.

Nyssa did a pretty great, paired down performance of ‘Superstition’ by Stevie Wonder, chosen by Awen Guttenbeil who was also the only celebrity who bothered to show up in person to the show (and was duly punished by Dom who tried to force him to sing). Shelton criticised Nyssa for being “boring” and low on energy, which led to an argument between Stan and the other judges as to whether she should move when she performs. Stan says Sam Smith and Adele don’t move when they perform so why should Nyssa? An excellent question.

Everyone knows Steve Broad loves a good MILF so the producers kindly gave him Kylie Bax, who picked ‘Ghost’ by Ella Henderson. Sadly this was again not a huge winner for dear Steve, and in spite of a great deal of dry ice and some passionate piano squatting the performance was rather meh. The main problem the judges agreed was his lack of engagement with the audience and more time than should ever be necessary was spent telling him just to face the audience.

X Factor contestant Nyssa Collins.

X Factor contestant Nyssa Collins. Photo: The X Factor NZ

In a particularly cruel move Dom Harvey (ugh) gave Lili The Ting Ting’s ‘That’s Not My Name’, which she did actually do ok with. Though aesthetically the performance was a cross between Gwen Stefani circa 2006 and the worst of Tumblr, it at least veered her away from tarnishing the good Lana Del Rey name. Once again Lili was in the bottom two, but her elimination performance of ‘The One That I Want’ was easily the best she’s done and she’s one of the least boring people left. Keep trucking Lili!

Mel says that Brendon Thomas and the Vibes are the one act she looks forward to most every week but they generally interest me the least, not because they’re bad per se but because I don’t really ever know the songs they are covering. This week was no exception, with Jono and Ben choosing ‘Little Monster’ by Royal Blood for them, and giving a performance that was basically fine. Considering Shelton is so obsessed with the future marketability of these acts it is fun that he has BT & the V, who really need to read some think pieces about genre, authenticity and reality television.

Poor sweet Beau turned 21 this week and the other contestants threw him a little party which, while heart-warming, made it all the more tragic that the powers that be are so committed to his humiliation. Given Kanye West’s ‘Gold Digger’ by apparent sadist DJ Sir-Vere, darling Beau was then made to perform in front of what appeared to be a fruit kiosk and extras dressed as homeless people. It was predictably chaotic, yet our ever inconsistent judges loved it.

X Factor contestant Beau Monga.

X Factor contestant Beau Monga. Photo: The X Factor NZ

As the contestants dwindle and the pressure rises, emotions are running high and it is increasingly clear that many of these emotions are sexy emotions. The nucleus at the core of this frisky atom is Mel Blatt and one way or another she has seemingly entranced all the men on the show, so much so that the show has even started to weave it into Steve Broad’s contestant narrative.

This week his tangible sexual tension with Mel was examined, albeit briefly, in his pre-performance introduction and poor Steve had to go on a fishing trip with Jo Cotton to talk it through as if he hasn’t suffered enough. Despite multiple winks and nudges, however, a relationship was neither confirmed nor denied and it is clear to even the casual observer that Steve is only one of the names on Mel’s dance card. Week by week Stan pushes her buttons; Dom won’t leave her alone; Shelton negs her at every chance he gets; Stevie Tonks serenaded her; and thank God Joe has finally been cut loose.

It strikes me then as necessary and timely then to contain the situation in a classic love triangle, rather than the horrific lust hexagon the situation threatens to become. As such only two suitors strike me as true contenders for Mel’s heart and I have put together the following:

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Photo: Unknown

As you can see it is very simple.

Steve is a lovely man. Remember when he took Mel to the zoo to play with red pandas for her birthday? God bless you Steve. Mel was unabashedly thrilled this week to have shed cockblock Joe and to finally have some “one on one time” with Steve. Yet this little honeymoon is under threat: Steve’s performance wasn’t great this week, for which he blames his nerves. Mixing business and pleasure is always fraught, and in such a public arena will Steve crack under the pressure?

On the other side we have Stan: He and Mel demonstrate a playful, almost Shakespearean relationship, furiously sassing one another with chemistry obvious to everyone but themselves. “Stan doesn’t know how to be anything but cocky,” Mel purred in Sunday night’s intro. Friends first, Stan can offer Mel a more sophisticated relationship than toyboy Steve, but can they ever see it for themselves? (Also I read that Stan is a born again virgin and has a girlfriend so these are also both obstacles)

Mel was kind to Joe, maternal even and she will forever be in his heart. Stevie Tonks was probably just following the trend. Prowling at the periphery and threatening to topple this perilously precarious balance, Dom and Shelton represent the vulgar and the perverse, dark forces that only the truest love can overcome. The stakes are high for Mel to make the right choice.

The stakes are high for you too though, dear viewer, and with only six X Factees remaining it is time to cement your allegiances! Time is running out and thankfully only weeks remain. Will talent win your hearts or spectacle? Brains or brawn? Blondes or Brunettes? The suspense is literally killing me.