X Factor Australia: Live Shows Week One

What do you expect when a bunch of mostly green performers with palm-sweating nerves of flopping on live television get thrown on a stage surrounded by cameras? Simple. You either hit your mark or miss your cue. Both of which actually happened, y’all. Welcome to X Factor Australia‘s first 2011 live show.

By means of introduction, this week it’s all about “Judges Choice” – where our four mentors pick songs they feel would best showcase their individual contestants’ strengths and artistic persuasion. Here’s the bone of contention that sees the judging panel flare up with debates over song choice and the “right fit”. Needless to say, this week’s power bottom two acts were a direct result of ill-fitting song choices.

Ronan Keating quickly asserted his confidence and prowess with all three of his groups excelling in their performances. Audio Vixen, Three Wishez and Young Men’s Society easily ran the competition last night with A-grade renditions of Coldplay‘s ‘Viva La Vida’, Lady Gaga/Beyoncé‘s ‘Telephone’ and Bruno Mars‘ ‘Lazy Song’ vs Jessie J‘s ‘Price Tag’ respectively. The Irish heart throb was spot on, demonstrating an intrinsic ability to match songs to his group’s strengths and image. He not only upgraded all three of his acts but he did so without making it seem contrived or blatantly gimmicky.

On the other hand, Nat Bassingthwaighte copped the most criticism for her choices after all three of her over 25 acts flopped with lukewarm performances. Faux Farnham warbler Andrew Wishart was all shades of beige, the shy tatted-up teddy Mitchell Callaway did a risky country re-write of Rihanna‘s ‘Only Girl In The World’, while my personal fave Cleo Howman failed to connect with ‘Jars of Heart’ after awkwardly missing her cue at the start. You could take out a mortgage to fund a stage spectacle for her but nothing could disguise the hollow sense of distance between Cleo and the material she was serving last night.

It was evident everyone got the memo to not hold back with the staging this year as we see aerialists tumble from above, troupes of dancers take over the stage, and even a piano ablaze in flames. This is just the kind of spectacle that makes for exciting viewing but as we soon discover, it all turns to ashes if the song and vocal performance itself doesn’t deliver moments.

Last night’s first live show attracted over 1.45 million viewers, a successful increase from last year’s equivalent episode which pulled 1.1 million. The impact on Twitter was immediate as ever. Audio Vixen led the pack as the show’s top Twitter trending topic after last night’s performance, ahead of other faves Three Wishez, Johnny Ruffo and Christina Parie.

While there are definite standouts and polished acts in the competition, I’m hesitant to rule out anyone after only one live show. Y’all should learn a lesson from revelations like Rebecca Ferguson from last year’s UK series. She was adequate but y’know, she didn’t exactly steal the show until two or three weeks in. Some of the performers you saw here last night might not be faves until a couple more rounds but who will Australia allow to blossom? And who will be dismissed?

Let’s check on the standout performances from our first live show, the deliciously shady comments, and finally – our first elimination:

1) Mel B is taking over control. All you lesser beings, back the fuck down.

This is the moment Spice Girls fans have been waiting for: Mel B – live and uncut. For weeks in the audition and pre-live show phases, we’ve been fed micro-edited snippets of Old Scary that didn’t really do her image and sass much justice. In this week’s first live television extravaganza, Mel B is letting it all fly – the bitchiness, the ballsy comments, and just all round unbridled brilliance. What you see is indeed what you get.

Here’s a highlight: “I’m just gonna talk over you until Luke comes back on stage! I am not gonna let Guy Sebastian talk any more right now. *throws fake segue* Luke, what do you think?”

2) Audio Vixen: oh how Father Keating upgraded them.

Put it this way. No other competitor in the series can hold a candle to Audio Vixen‘s vocal performance. Hands down the tightest harmonies and most on point execution you’ll ever hear. We’re looking at a seasoned brother-sister group that have toured around the country and even the US together for years. They are not one to be played with.

Check out Audio Vixen absolutely owning this Coldplay smash:


 
However, it was obvious from the get-go that in order to move forward, Audio Vixen really needed to shed the dated image and sound. Nothing wrong with staying country and adult contemporary centric but y’all need to do it in a way that’s still appealing for a prime time television talent show.

Here’s where Ronan deserves another round of applause. Not only did he update AV’s look and picked a song that transported them to the mainstream, he did so with careful consideration of their ingrained style and identity. Everything about this feels right. It’s what a grown pop group poised for international stardom should look and sound like.

3) Young Men’s Society: three guys, two songs, one hit performance.

It’s a shame Jeff The Wiggle couldn’t make a cameo in this sequence.

YMS staged an entertaining song-and-dance rendition of Bruno Mars‘ ‘Lazy Song’ and Jessie J‘s ‘Price Tag’ – a clever mash up that highlights all their strengths: smooth vocal harmonies, slick choreography and a bit of rap thrown in for good measure. There is nothing amateur about this. Take a look:


 
This is how it’s done, y’guys. Definitely one of my faves in the competition.

4) Oh no he di’nt! The day Guy Sebastian shaded Mel B.

This actually solid gold. Here I am, almost 24 hours on, still gasping for air and clutching my pearls at Guy Sebastian throwing shade. Who knew he could be so damn good at it? The Idol darling came for Mel B‘s credibility last night after she read his contestant – Johnny Ruffo – to filth over a poor vocal performance.

“Johnny, there’s a lot of people that get up on that stage that are hugely famous that don’t sing near as well…” Oh no he di’nt! I’m surprised the camera crew didn’t think to cut to a close up of Mel B when Guy said that. You know, this means war.

The choreographed screen projections in Johnny’s performance might be awe-inspiring for Aussie pedestrians who have never seen Beyoncé’s life-changing Billboard Awards performance. But for the rest of us who have been slayed by the sight, this budget homage is kinda cringe in comparison, innit?

Check out Johnny’s spectacle with ‘Moves Like Jagger’:


 
I love my ass a piece of Johnny Ruffo but I feel like we’ve backtracked from all the progress he’s made in the boot camp and judges house phase. I recognise that he’s Guy’s only promise of a singing/dancing performer but this elaborate rendition of ‘Moves Like Jagger’ feels a little ambitious for Johnny’s level of expertise right now.

5) Declan Sykes: the wild card you should bet on.

The geeky Melbourne teen dazzled with an elaborately choreographed performance last night that just about disguised his own awkward stage presence. I’m not saying he’s incapable of working the crowd – anyone who’s seen his audition knows otherwise. But where some contestants can rock out from one corner to the next or master slick choreography, left to his own device, Declan would just heckle the crowd – which is fine, but it’ll tire pretty soon.

Watch Declan Sykes cover Muse‘s ‘Uprising’ in a shroud of well-impressive stage production:


 
It goes without saying that Declan represents a different breed of performer, one that’s not usually represented on a show like this. On one hand, he screams one-tricky pony but on the other, I’m keen to see how Declan interprets and adapts to the various themes in the coming weeks. He’s one act capable of surprising. Bet you can’t wait to see trick he pulls for next week’s party theme.

6) Christina Parie: sometimes living up to expectations just isn’t enough.

There was never really a shadow of doubt in anyone’s mind that this girl can turn it out live. Despite being only 15, Christina Parie has ballsy stage presence and confidence that’s well beyond her years. But is that enough?

Watch her blow out Kelly Clarkson‘s ‘Since U Been Gone’ like a boss and then I’mma serve the tea on this situation:


 
Fuck, she’s amazing. But having said that – I’m sorry, y’guys. I’m feeling a tide of ennui come over me with this one. I can’t see myself living for Christina’s every performance because you just know that it’s gonna be signature Disney pop rock all the way. It’s kinda like what Sally Chatfield turned into last year – predictable purveyor of Singstar Rawk. Whatever next? Miley, Pink, Avril, The Veronicas – you see where this is headed. Will Mel B push her week in and out or play it safe with a catalogue of bubblegum rock selections? I think we all know the answer.

7) The judges medley: “what’s driving you is ambition and betting…”

If nothing else wowed y’all last night – you can take away this special complimentary performance by our four judges. Guy Sebastian, Nat Bassingthwaighte, Ronan Keating and Mel B opened the show with a medley of their most memorable songs. This treat was evidently inspired by the opening of The Voice where all four of their judges shared a warble together.

Check out their little show stopper:


 
Guy broke the ice with a piano-based rendition of his last hit ‘Who’s That Girl’ before it segued to Nat Bass‘s lush dance ballad ‘Someday Soon’. It was something of a tender moment hearing both their vocals meld in the chorus. Then we cut to Ronan on guitars rocking out his vintage anthem ‘Lovin’ Each Day’ before all hell and camp festivities break lose with Scary Spice emerging from behind the screens to power up ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’.

I would’ve wet myself if she came out all bad ass with her own feisty solo hits ‘I Want You Back’ or ‘Tell Me’ but hearing all four judges reimagine a Spice Girl classic was just too good to pass up. It was literally life-giving, y’guys. Especially at the very end when Mel B and Guy shared a booty bump.

This week’s power bottoms: Cleo Howman and Jacqui Newland.

The teenage girl demographic has weighed in on tonight’s public votes: all the boys are safe (including the vocally shaky Johnny Ruffo), leaving the pretty twenty-something females unsupported.

Y’all didn’t really get a chance to bond with Cleo, did you? Out of all the contestants I’ve seen sent through to the live shows, the one I consistently hear cop a “who?” is Cleo. She really wasn’t featured extensively during the audition stages and she didn’t really have a “story” to hook us with other than that petty melodrama of not having her boyfriend around for her audition.

Last night’s live show was meant to be Cleo‘s big opportunity to reach into the nation’s heart and show us why she deserves to be there. Instead the young beauty missed virtually half her song and worst, when she did sing, I didn’t sense any connection or conviction whatsoever.

On the flip side, Jacqui Newland is the master of connecting with whatever she’s singing. This bitch never fails to own every lyric and emotion. The only problem with last night was the slight detour to country pop with a Taylor Swift song. It’s evident that Mel B‘s not gonna sell us two similar products and have Christina Parie and Jacqui Newland rocking out, even though the latter’s roots are firmly planted in the genre [Editor’s note: remember the AC/DC song during auditions?] The public smelled blood when Guy called out Mel B for misrepresenting Jacqui as an artist. Much as Jacqui tried to justify the new musical direction, all that talk had unfortunately cast doubts in voters’ minds.

The final showdown tonight saw Cleo inadvertently self-sabotage with an Adele song. Bitch, why didn’t you pick a Bic Runga song? Y’know, something that actually complements your vocal tone rather than try your luck at this critical point with ‘Chasing Pavements’? You done just bent over and let the Princess of Geewrong wipe you out of this competition. There was no denying Jacqui Newland when she stepped out, guns-ablazing with a cover of Gossip‘s ‘Heavy Cross’.

Easiest decision ever and I’m glad three of the judges agreed that it’s time to go: Cleo Howman.

It’s 11 in the competition and the show is jumpin’ jumpin’…

Tune in next Tuesday as the final 11 acts turn it out with a party theme. Prepare for a cringeworthy and predictable selection of LMFAO, Enrique, Pitbull and David Guetta fodder.

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10 Comments

  1. I would LOVE to see the clip of Mel saying those things you mentioned. I literally watched her Who Do You Think You Are entrance through my fingers – love her, but she pretty much has no live vocal talent (on record she can sound nice with the right pop song of course).

    • I know! I so wish someone would upload the full thing with the judges comments! But other than the one streaming from the official Channel 7 website (which isn’t viewable overseas), no luck as yet. It was a thrill to see them do ‘WDYTYA’. She brought so much fun and energy to the stage but yeah, it’s evident that she’s not the strongest singer on there. I agree, she’s got a lovely vocal tone, though.

  2. As I am unable to view it all live, I shall have to live X Factor vicariously through your blog and youtube :D

    • Please do. There’s nothing I want more from the X Factor than innovative song choices and original arrangements! No more karaoke snoozefest like it was last year :)

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