12 May 2015

The X Factor NZ: The end begins

8:18 am on 12 May 2015

This week we arrived at the X Factor NZ semi-finals, “the toughest of all the rounds,” according to Dominic Bowden. With the loss of Stevie “Hatbeard” Tonks, our burgeoning baby stars are now whittled down to three and we have but a week left to find out just who wins that car.

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Photo: Unknown

With so few remaining, and perhaps following my very good advice, this week our dear contestants summoned the energy to perform two whole songs each, dictated by two different themes - “Number Ones” and “Mother's Day”.

In a season that has already given the contestants ‘Top 40 Hits’ and ‘Hits of the Summer’, the ‘Number Ones’ theme was a particularly lazy piece of fill in, and, it was kind of a weird mess, taking up the first half of the performance show.

The Mother's Day theme meanwhile, though completely random and cheesy, was actually a stroke of genius. With the added zest of the oedipal, the contestants seemed more passionate, purposeful and just better. With some actual, genuine back story and emotional context, I thought the latter half of Monday night’s show had some of the best performances of the season. Plus it was cute seeing all the mums.

Last season’s “success story” Benny Tipene (lol burn Jackie Thomas) and Spandau Ballet performed on the results show, the former of whom was lovely and the latter of whom I had never heard of. Performing immediately after the announcement that Stevie Tonks and Brendon Thomas and the Vibes would be in the bottom two, Benny unforgivably doomed Stevie by giving his valuable endorsement to BT and the V. I was very cross, yet who can stay mad at sweet, sweet Benny and his lovely curly hair?

Less endearing was the bizarre piece of cross-promotion for Mediaworks' next reality cash cow Dancing With The Stars, in which the contestants were not only announced but also paraded on stage auctioneer style. While little could temper my excitement for yet another twice-a-week reality show commitment, the cast was fairly uninspiring. Here I was dreaming of Karl Urban or Judy Bailey and what do we get? Bloody Jay Jay Feeney. Add to that the cruel and despicable exclusion of my idol Candy Lane and I really don’t know what they think they’re doing.

In any case I digress, which is just what those swines want. Here is my analysis of the week:

Brendon Thomas and the Vibes.

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

Brendon Thomas and the Vibes opened Monday night’s show with Pink Floyd’s ‘Another Brick in the Wall’, followed in the second half with an audacious mash up of John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ and The Rolling Stone’s ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’. I liked neither. The Pink Floyd performance was accompanied by a couple of dozen school children who sang and threw paper darts and it was super dumb and cheesy. Mel was not pleased to have things thrown at her for the second time in one season, yet still praise was heaped upon them and, in a bottom two sing off with Stevie, they were victorious.

If Brendon Thomas and the Vibes win, they will be the first band in the history of the franchise to win The X Factor - information Shelton repeated multiple times on Monday night’s show as if it were something to be happy about. Self-described on their Facebook page as a “bunch a 'cruised out hippies' who simply live to jam and create,” Brendon Thomas and the Vibes are an increasingly bad parody of every single rock and roll trope ever and they don’t even know it.  

Did anyone else know that Beau’s parents were in Ardijah? How did I miss that? Why did they let him go on X Factor? Beau’s vocal performance of Justin Timberlake’s ‘My Love’ was terrible, and rivalled Steve Broad for the worst falsetto of the season. I did enjoy the weird travelator set and Beau did some good dancing, but it is pretty worrying that, at this point in the competition, the judges are debating whether it is necessary for the contestant to be able to sing.

Beau Monga.

Beau Monga. Photo: The X Factor NZ

For his Mother’s Day performance, Beau enlisted his two brothers to cover his parent’s cover of ‘Silly Love Songs’ and he played the guitar and didn’t do that much weird stuff and it was actually pretty good! I am very late to the party learning about Beau’s musical pedigree and it makes his decision to be on X Factor all the more perplexing. In this golden age of nepotism surely his parents could have made a call?

We learned that Stevie Tonks, in the bottom two for the previous two weeks, had lost his confidence and there was some very touching footage of him looking forlorn. Thankfully this was remedied by The Script who, having performed last week, came along and told him to have faith and stuff and after that he was ok again I guess.

Stevie’s song choices this week were ‘Some Nights’ by Fun, and ‘Fix You’ by Coldplay, both of which I despise. Getting his groove back seemed to involve some horrific plaid pants, a weird mesh knit jumper and some crowd surfing. If only it had been enough. Though I thought his performance of ‘Some Nights’ was pretty average his version of ‘Fix You’ was good and I am sad to see him go. Adieu Stevie!

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Photo: Unknown

Nyssa was the shining star of the week and, though I suspect our nation is far too perverse to elect her as X Factor president, she surely is the only one who really deserves it. In one segment, Stan took Nyssa to the boxing gym to prepare her “mind, body and spirit.”

Nyssa performed ‘Am I Wrong’ by Nico and Vinz for her Number One song and ‘Crazy’ by Patsy Cline for her Mother’s Day song and they were both really good. Also Nyssa’s late father used to serenade her mum with ‘Crazy’ and how sweet is that? Nyssa has been the most competent contestant throughout the entire competition and that the judges still had some pretty harsh criticism for her is sign of just how wack this show is. Shelton thinks he’s seen everything from her and that she’s become predictable; Natalie was underwhelmed; Mel thought her heartbreaking, emotional tribute to her mother and deceased father was “super cheese”. What is the matter with these people?

It’s weird though, because although I hope Nyssa wins and that winning makes her happy, it is hard to forget that it is very unlikely that the show can make her, or anyone else, a commercially successful recording artist. The inclusion of Benny Tipene as a performer served only to unearth the perpetually repressed reality that he is the only semblance of success from the previous season, and he wasn’t even the winner. Jackie Thomas, who did win, and with a huge margin of audience votes, has receded back into oblivion.  

Nyssa Collins.

Nyssa Collins. Photo: The X Factor NZ

Mel reminded us once again this week that there is a recording contract  at the end of this and Shelton keeps on putting on his bloody “industry hat”, but either these people are deluded or ruthlessly cynical because, from what I gather, they barely even have careers.

Dom told us on Monday that last week the bottom two changed four times in 24 hours, which at the surface suggests fierce competition, but could actually mean just about anything. Yet If I have learned anything from the X Factor, it’s to suspend disbelief in the face of all reason. So for now, let’s assume that it means our final three are neck and neck. The collective national fantasy that is The X Factor NZ is almost at a close and in only one week our hatchlings will be ready to fly the nest. Will they soar? Or will they plummet like the flightless kiwis they are?