X Factor Australia: Live Shows Week Four

One month into the live shows and this series is already starting to flatline. What the X Factor Australia desperately needs is a shake up because right now, the only thing raising my blood pressure is the shock eliminations and the fact that actually entertaining performers are winding up in the bottom two.

At this point everything that was promising in the first live show has basically turned to dust. The stage spectacle, innovative song choices and styling are fading to a glimmer as all the consistent performers become painfully predictable and safe. The thrill is gone, y’all. When you no longer get wet with excitement to see your faves come out and do their thing, putting up with the other filler acts becomes almost unbearable.

Basically, nine acts hit the stage this week to recapture hits of the nineties and only one managed to slay. Major kudos to Christina Parie, who was the only contestant that bothered to show us something new. After three weeks of seeing her bounce around the stage – just being Miley – the girl turned up this week in a black dress and sat herself behind a piano to deliver her first ballad.

Elsewhere, Guy Sebastian was trying something new in the sonic department, genre-mating and taking admirable risks with song arrangements. However, I think he kinda missed the point with all this musical innovation because, let’s be real, this is a television show. Try as hard as you might to paint your artists with a new sound, but if it doesn’t come complete with a new look and performance art – your vision is only half realised.

Ronan Keating arguably has the most exciting category but at a point in the competition where nobody has any business slacking off, he appears to be taking the easy road with his groups. The visual presentation and song arrangements for Young Men’s Society and Audio Vixen no longer excite like they used to. His mixed pop/R&B group – Three Wishez – continue to change their game, making the most of their unique position [read: actually having three individual performers].

Nat Bassingthwaighte had her boys – Mitchell Callaway and Andrew Wishart – tugging at heartstrings with major power ballads ‘Everybody Hurts’ and ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’ respectively. It is understandably safe and overly emosh, but she knows who both acts appeal to and what their demographic expects. I don’t feel compelled for Nat to make any drastic changes because any outlandish staging and experimental song choices would just appear too forced for these two. There really is only so much you can do with her mature-aged warblers.

Check out the hits and misses in this week’s nineties-themed show, and of course, the shock Power Bottom Two:

1) Christina Parie giving us a “Natalie Gauci moment”.

Oh my god, y’guys. Christina can play the piano? What a talented young thing she is. *Masticates on gum loudly* I reckon this still stripped back performance was not just the highlight of the night but one we’ll definitely look back on to be a defining moment for the entire series. This is exactly what I crave on a week to week basis. I need for great contestants to come out and demonstrate versatility, showmanship and some recording artist readiness.

Watch Christina Parie cover The Cranberries‘ classic ‘Zombie’:


 

2) YMS divides the panel with ‘Black or White’.

This is a classic case of biting off more than you can chew. Y’all know Ronan was being too ambitious when he assigned YMS to do a song-and-dance cover of Michael Jackson‘s ‘Black or White’. The problem with this isn’t so much the “untouchable music legend” thing. I’m sure there are loads of artists that have covered Michael Jackson before to surprising success. But here’s the thing, those that do it well did it by injecting their own personality and slant on it. The best tribute performances and covers aren’t always about doing it exactly like the original. It’s about capturing the essence and spirit of the song in your own way.

Looking at YMS‘ rendition of ‘Black or White’, I struggle to find anything really distinct that signifies their take on it. And I think the worst part was hearing how it was so vocally compromised.

Take a look for yourselves:


 
3) Guy Sebastian’s sonic Frankensteins.

You really have to commend Guy Sebastian for being the only judge thinking outside the square this week. The ‘Elevator Love’ singer went into innovation overdrive, genre-mating tracks for his three boys but sadly it wasn’t exactly well received by everyone.

Johnny Ruffo got a modern Chris Brown-type interpretation of a Meatloaf track. That didn’t sit well with most people but I reckon if y’all stopped getting so hung up on it being a “Meatloaf track” and actually listened to the song as it is, you’ll find that it worked just fine. Meanwhile, Reece Mastin got pulled up on a questionable punk reinvention of Alanis Morissette‘s ‘Ironic’, which really only starts to reveal its worth after two or three listens – a luxury you don’t have for a one-off live TV performance.

But the ultimate mother of all flop experiments came with Declan Sykes‘ dark electronica reimagination of Nirvana‘s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’. Gurl, I was left clutching my pearls wondering what the fuck just happened. Not even the immaculate staging and strobe lights could distract from the awkward, alienating and indulgent vocal performance Sykes gave.

Watch Declan‘s divisive cover of  ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’. In another life, this track would’ve made for a decent Rob Dougan remix of said 90s classic.


 
4) Mel B’s Comment of The Week:

“I felt like somebody had spiked my drink and I was in this weird nightmare, and I needed to wake up bloody quick! That was a trip I never wanna go on. Never again. Get me out of here!” – On Declan Sykes‘ bizarre performance.

My thoughts exactly.

This week’s Power Bottom Two: Audio Vixen and Johnny Ruffo.

Let me just say, it was a major hell no to see these two wind up in the bottom especially when there are beige warblers (Mitchell Callaway and Andrew Wishart) and awkward performers (Declan Sykes) still crawling about. There would be no sigh of relief and no happy ending either way with this situation and let me tell you why.

Both Audio Vixen and Johnny Ruffo are actually well capable performers in their own right – both purveying completely different styles, appeals and vocal abilities. However, here’s where the loosely-defined “X-Factor” comes into question. Is this a talent show based on vocal abilities alone or are we talking about an overall “star quality” that really reads great “marketability”?

The decider basically came down to Mel B after Nat and Ronan opted to send Johnny Ruffo home. Old Scary made a controversial call to keep the vocally-inferior Johnny Ruffo over the polished brother-sister group because she felt that the lad was more “marketable”.

Let’s get real for a minute here. Both Audio Vixen and Johnny Ruffo are well marketable in their own right but not necessarily to the same demographic. You can imagine Audio Vixen selling albums and doing amazingly well in the country/adult contemporary field while Johnny‘s probably more of a pop singles seller. When Mel decided that Johnny was more “marketable” than the trio, what she’s really doing is choosing the one more readily marketable to the immediate teen girl demographic, which we all know is the core voting group here. It was a very specific preference for one market.

There was further drama with Old Scary’s verdict when she outright said that she won’t throw it to deadlock – which renders it to an elimination by lowest public’s vote – only to actually throw it to deadlock [Watch 9:30 mark below]. Gurl, do you know how this works?

Watch the dramatic verdict last night, including an amazing final performance by Audio Vixen who covered Queen‘s ‘Somebody to Love’:


 
While it was blatantly the public’s decision to send Audio Vixen home, this was one outing no one wanted to take the fall for. I guess some frustration was aimed at Mel B because it seemed like she had the power to save them by keeping the decision within the confines of the judging panel. But look at it this way, Mel was well within her rights to send home whomever she choose, regardless of whether the situation was gonna be a deadlock or not. Consider the judges’ reasons here for a minute. No matter how you look at it, the panel was always gonna be split equally. If Luke had asked Mel B before Nat, it might’ve been a whole different villainess altogether.

Would you keep Johnny Ruffo over Audio Vixen?

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6 Comments

  1. I am really pissed Audio Vixen got sent home, I thought that every week they were by far the best vocally and I loved their brother-sisters lovely cute appeal. And Johnny Ruffo isn’t a great singer, I seriously doubt he will have a career after this.

    And How Mitchell is still in this competition beats me. Bah

    This week my favourites were Christina, Declan (I kinda dug that!) and strangely Andrew, he’s growing on me a bit.

    I’ve been reading your commentary on the show re: the UK series. The show will always be bigger in the UK purely because it’s watched by more people. I think if we can get a performance budget that at least gives us something more than we got from the fourteen seasons of Idol, we’re lucky that it isn’t more bland.

    Or maybe I’m just homesick enough that a little bit of local content sits nicer than it would back home :)

    • I really do think your homesickness has kinda given this a nice rose-coloured sheen but nonetheless, I do believe this series has some potential. Just not necessarily their best week? Y’know, I was actually impressed with Andrew this week. I was howling with excitement the minute I recognised ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’. I think the competition needs a power vocalist like him but he’s not necessarily always gonna be a highlight.

      It was very upsetting to see Audio Vixen go because I was hoping Ronan would pull his head back into it and give them a proper look and contemporary feel because after that first show, he’s kinda slacked off on them. Too little too late now :(

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