X Factor Australia: Boot Camp Episodes One and Two

It’s time to separate the one hit wonders from the real contenders as X Factor Australia enters its boot camp phase. Your faves won’t know what hit them.

First up, I’d like to formally acknowledge how wrong I was with my predictions of which judge gets what category. I told y’all I wasn’t a betting man. Congrachoolations to Vanessa, who commented in my Episode Four post, for calling it out perfectly as Ronan (groups), Mel B (girls), Nat (over 25’s) and Guy (boys).

With that sorted, let’s see how these four go about mentoring their anointed categories because I can tell that everyone’s already got their own strategies in weeding out the hopefuls from the hopeless. This is also an opportunity for the judges to prove to Australia that they’re credible and well dedicated to the game because there’s nothing worst than feeling like your mentor’s letting you down. In fact, we won’t stand for that – if criticisms geared towards Kyle Sandilands last year were anything to go by. So what’s the go?

Mel B is testing for showmanship by implementing choreography into the girls’ vocal performance, Guy puts his guys out of their comfort zone by assigning them covers of songs made famous by female artists, while Nat has a strange way of finding star quality by combining a photo shoot challenge with her contestants’ singing performance. The boot camp phase is broken up into two nights with double the elimination threat – and here to help our judges make the cut are The Veronicas (with Ronan), Wynter Gordon (with Guy), Darren Hayes (with Nat) and Stephen Belafonte (Mel B’s Hollywood producer husband).

Let’s check out the highlights of the first two boot camp episodes and cast an early bet on who will make it to the home visits stage, where the final six in each category gets downsized to just three for the live shows.

1) Nat’s ANTM Factor.

It struck me as a little odd and superfluous at first but it quickly became obvious why Nat Bassingthwaighte threw the photo shoot curve ball at her Over 25’s this early on. As someone who is equally as much of a looker as she is a singer [Editor’s note: take it anyway you like], the former Neighbours vixen knows the importance of coming correct in front of the camera. Her category hasn’t the advantage of youth or the appeal that comes with said appearance, however, that don’t mean they can show up all tore up on stage week in and week out.

The age range Nat has to play with here is quite a stretch from mid twenty somethings through to folks almost double those digits. How do you even begin to decide who is more marketable to the Australian masses? Out of all the categories, this one would have to be the hardest to mentor because most of these contestants have spent most of their lives solidifying their identity as performers. There’s only so much you can tweak in the short period of time before the live shows.

2) It’s Mel B if you come correct and Scary if you don’t. 

“You can’t ever do mediocre auditions for me every again!” – BAM. That’s coming off light as a warning, young lady. Judging by the judges’ reactions during boot camp, you’d think that Mel’s gang is struggling the most but maybe it’s just dawned on her how unprepared her girls are for the challenges ahead.

Y’all might think it’s harsh to implement choreography as not all singers are natural dancers but come on, we’re not asking you to turn out the ‘Single Ladies’ routine here. From what you can see, these are all reasonable routines that can be adapted to even the most basic of pop performances. Bar stool singer or professional crowd entertainer alike should be able to do this come live shows.

Old Scary is still the most interesting judge to watch especially when sparks fly between her and hubby Stephen. See the pair go head to head when they’re making their first boot camp cut:

 

If you’ve ever seen any portion of her reality show It’s A Scary World, you’ll know that Stephen truly is the only man in the world capable of handling this bitch. This is a man who knows how to pick his battles. Unfortunately for him as co-advisor in this situation, Mel puts the smack down by warning him up front: “You’re on my turf now. You’re on my time!”

3) Johnny Ruffo: congratulations for proving me wrong.

The boys category seem to deliver some of the most well rounded performers in this year’s competition. There are a handful of good looking lads who are all rather capable of singing and dancing their way to the finals but none came as more of a surprise than Johnny Ruffo. Isn’t it amazing what happens when you put a pause on the ostentatious dancing and cue up a proper vocal performance?

Watch Johnny turn it out for Guy and Wynter – I think I melted a little when he said he works six days a week and still takes time to look after his little sister:

 

Can I just say, I felt like some contestants were at a loss about what’s really expected of them at these boot camp routines? Ronan complained to The Veronicas when Young Men’s Society (see below) failed to conjure up any choreography and chose to only feature their skillfully tight harmonies. On the flip side, Guy and Wynter felt that Trent Bell‘s apt choreography during ‘Disturbia’ distracted from his performance.

Who else was surprised by Johnny’s performance? Do you think he deserves to compete in the live shows?

4) Mitchell Callaway: your over 25’s category ain’t complete without a chief like him.

I think Nat was just joshing when she made that comment about being unsure if Mitchell‘s shy demeanour would render him unprepared for the live shows. Bitch, you know as well as I do that his sweet shy personality is what endears this tatted-up teddy.

See how Mitchell fares in front of Nat and Dazza:

 

The single most adorable moment this week went to Mitchell getting made up for the photo shoot. Quote: “I don’t know what make up it was but it made my nose itchy.” Swoons. Who’s your pick for the over 25’s?

5) Jacqui Newland: serving it at every turn.

I think a few of our audition faves have disappointingly stumbled at this mark – see: bespectacled 14-year old power ballad warbler Medina Begic, war survivor Emmanuel Kelly and Central Australian crooner Zaachariaha Fielding.

But what’s comforting to note is seeing the handful of strong contestants pull through and where possible, dazzle even more than they did the first time. Geelong girl Jacqui Newland and 15-year old Christina Parie are among the promising few from Mel’s category. They remain as the two most widely appealing and capable performers in this competition. You can just see both ladies effortlessly transforming and handling a variety of genres and styles like a boss.

Who’s your must have for Mel B‘s girls category?

6) Young Men’s Society: setting the standard for all groups to follow.

Can we pause the tape for a sec and just take in their ensemble? These guys mean business. I’d like to think that Australia has something to show for pop groups this year because y’all know how this country’s just overrun with solo acts. Last year’s leader of the pack – Mahogany – have yet to break the charts but let’s hope for a quicker turn over Young Men’s Society. Provided that they make it to the live shows.

Side bar: I know brother-sister country harmony trio Audio Vixens weren’t featured extensively in the audition reels but do y’all see the potential for these guys to be big in Australia? I mean, they could tour with Kasey Chambers and open for Keith Urban right away.

Which other group needs to be in the live shows, y’guys? Don’t nobody say UpFront. As entertaining as they are, this reeks of novelty act and unlike the UK crowd who embraced their equivalent (Jedward), I don’t think Australia will go for that.

Before we play house.

Tune in on Monday to find out what challenge Ronan had set for his groups and which six acts are going to the “home visits” phase. This is where vicious cut begins and even I am not prepared to predict who’ll fly and who’ll flop.

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