Australia, the last page is almost at our finger tips and discussions at the metaphorical water cooler have become increasingly divisive. Basically, the winner of X Factor Australia will be declared in a matter of days and I don’t think anyone can comfortably call it. Put it this way. You have your preferred winning man but after such an unpredictable year of public voting, you can’t be too sure of yourself.
This week’s final live show decider was left completely to the public’s vote and there it was again – that familiar sense of disappointment with another eviction. I remember feeling the same ennui wash over me this time last year when girl band du jour Mahogany got the boot as jazz boy Andrew Lawson sashayed into the grand finals.
Monday’s mega episode saw 1.4 million viewers tune in to experience some serious flaunting of Channel 7 coins with Andrew, Johnny, Reece and Three Wishez all taking turns warbling two songs in elaborate stage set-ups.
The “pleasure and pain” theme was kept loose enough for each performer to really mine their respective artistic angles. There’s no excuse to hold back at the home run. Every performer came correct with a no-restrictions take on their personal idols: Andrew went for John Farnham, Three Wishez charged up with the Black Eyed Peas, Reece tackled Guns N’ Roses, and Johnny got him some Ne-Yo.
The big-budgeted stage spectacle helped intensify the overall excitement for the grand finals, yes, but as with every graduation – there comes ponderings of future success. Has the series done enough to the get us adequately hyped for each contestant’s next step into the music industry?
Check out my one last examination of the final three acts – Andrew, Johnny and Reece – before the grand final decider on Tuesday, 22 November:
Johnny Ruffo: he’s a “work it” man.
SMH. You know you’re pulling the mother of all desperate stunts when you’re stripping and exploiting your sex appeal for a few votes. But that is actually the kind of popstarly showing I’d expect from someone who models himself after the likes of Jason DeRulo and Usher.
This week’s presentation of disposable, radio-ready pop with a little baring of skin makes sense for Johnny Ruffo the entertainer. Sure the staging with various beach party props looked like a Mercury 4 performance done as a one-man show, but ladies and queens, it got him exactly the response he was after.
Watch that Johnny Ruffo performance where he strips off:
Johnny Ruffo now stands as the finalist most likely to give me a pop performance I would shuffle along to see. There’s actually a very good reason why The Ruffo is still in the race. Consider the fact that he’s easy on the eyes and he’s a raw, growing performer. The audience loves them good underdog story and that vaguely-defined x-factor, it seems, is actually a smoke and mirrors term to describe an individual’s ability embody “entertainment value” and “mass-appealing likability”.
To me, the future for Johnny Ruffo seems brighter than what naysayers depict it to be. It will hopefully be a stroblit affair, filled with attempts at Americanised Aussie pop that the public love to hate. I’m completely prepared to back any dance/pop efforts he shuffles into but it would be ideal for The Ruffo to take the next 12 months off to really polish himself as a singer and dancer, then launch an album packed with More Mega (hit producers behind Havana Brown) and Israel Cruz productions.
Andrew Wishart: the old reliable.
Andrew Wishart has been consistent from the get-go, powering through the competition with his monstrous neo-Farnham vocals. He’s never had to endure shaky song choices and deliver less than on-point vocal performances (bar the bum note moment in his cover of David Guetta/Sia’s ‘Titanium’).
I think the appeal with Andrew is very much the way he communicates as an emotional performer. There are good singers that hit notes and deliver flawless trills, then there are great singers that connect with the material they’re singing and really stun on a deeper level.
I feel like sometimes with the X Factor, it’s so easy to get caught up in the razzle dazzle and big budget stage spectacles that we forget the purest point of all this: the music and connection. I, myself, have to admit that I’ve probably slept through most of Andrew‘s time on the X Factor because it was missing that visual extravagance I was mining the program for. But at the end of the day, it would be amiss to not acknowledge the incredible journey he’s taken the nation on with every song choice assigned.
Watch Andrew melt hearts this week with an emotive cover of John Farnham‘s ‘Burn For You’:
Even though he’s not necessarily the kind of artist I would stan for, I think Andrew brings back a classic Australian adult contemporary-style that the nation didn’t even realise it missed. There is, of course, only one John Farnham but I doubt his fans would pass up on an opportunity to experience his style of music again with a present-day ambassador like Papa Andew.
Reece Mastin: taller, stronger, better.
How do you piece your ass back together after all three judges ripped into it for covering ‘All By Myself’? Our resident teen rocker, Reece Mastin, suffered one of the most outrageously farcical attacks last week when he turned his vocal cords to some Celine balladry.
This week, desperate to secure a place in the finals, the kid went “back to his roots” and pulled out two testosterone-fuelled rock numbers – one being a classic Guns N’ Roses piece and the other, a modern hit by The Script. He’s really got his base covered with these two song choices that speak to young and mature rock fans alike.
There is no denying the star potential we see before us. Reece Mastin is by far the most polished teen performer X Factor Australia has ever seen. But even though he can sing the house down and emit some proper stage presence, there is an element of guardedness in his performance that always keeps us at arm’s length.
His mentor Guy Sebastian obviously sensed that lack of emotional connection too and thus, rushing Reece into some heavy duty Celine ballad last week. The irony is that the overly dramatic power ballad did nothing to illicit an emotional connection from the kid. If anything, it was this week’s quieter break up song ‘Break Even’ that broke down the walls and finally got Reece reaching for heartstrings.
Watch Reece making a breakthrough with ‘Break Even’:
By now, Short Stack and the like are probably running for the hills in fear of the epic Reece takeover. This kid will literally inhale their fanbase and then some. Being so young and already so bloody good, Master Mastin looks most likely to sustain a long career not just in Australia but internationally. The child is completely primed and ready for a Top 40-appropriate punk/rock album. And if show circles are to be relied upon, Benji Madden will probably have a hand writing his single and with any luck, Christina Parie will guest vocal on a track.
Three Wishez: the power of three that wasn’t meant to be.
Y’all been waiting all this time for Three Wishez to recreate a Black Eyed Peas song and they turn up covering one of the band’s most heinous singles. This is almost too much for me to handle.
Let’s be real about it. The whole Three Wishez journey has been plagued with questionable song executions, exacerbated by the band’s changing vocal dynamics and the show’s diverse weekly themes. Such a heavy burden was placed upon them the minute Australia found themselves some kind of home grown BEP but apart from the times where they covered ‘Telephone’, ‘Don’t Stop The Music’ and ‘Push It’ – I don’t think Sophia, Joseph and Fred really gave a proper indication of what Three Wishez music would be like.
This week’s rendition of ‘This Time (Dirty Bit)’ – however irksome the song choice may be – was actually thoroughly mega. What a great mix of major moolah visual presentation and appropriate rap/sung parts.
Watch Three Wishez serve one of their most memorable performances yet with ‘This Time (Dirty Bit)’:
Basically, it’s always gonna be harder for groups to excel on the X Factor because there’s so much focus on identifying with the individual performers. Australia, as a nation, is not a big buyer of pop groups anyway but one can only hope that the tide changes with the rise of Justice Crew and I guess to an extent, The Potbelleez.
The future is crazy bright for Three Wishez but despite coming as far as they have in the competition, this is essentially a very young group and the mechanics still need to be ironed out. I think if anything, Three Wishez need to look ahead to K-pop groups and study how they balance insane pop melodies with rap breakdowns.
So we’re onto the finals now, who are you backing to take home the crown – Johnny Ruffo, Andrew Wishart or Reece Mastin?