X Factor Australia: Live Shows Week Three

You did it again, X Factor Australia. What started off as a mildly amusing live show line up ended in a stinking pile of controversy after a judge called out a contestant for “rude behaviour”, basically polarising any discussion to be had about the performance. It’s only the second time this has happened.

It was Amanda Grafanakis-gate all over again last night when Mitchell Callaway copped a public rebuke by Guy Sebastian for his “behaviour” and ill-treatment of some crew members. The shy tatted-up country warbler was caught off guard when Guy exposed his backstage rudeness to the nation, a “seemingly sizeable issue” that even his mentor Natalie Bassingthwaighte struggled to hose down then and there. It seems like none of the judges – apart from Guy – knew what the hell actually happened.

“You’ve got to have the right attitude to this competition… not at times be rude to crew, you really have to pull that in and rein that in because you won’t last long in this competition or this industry if you do that,” Guy advised Mitchell in what should’ve been a verdict focused on his on-stage performance not off-camera antics. [Editor’s note: y’all can watch the drama go down later in the post].

The repercussions must’ve been too much to bear as Mitchell told Nat after last night’s “rock themed” episode that he won’t be returning to the show – something he has since taken back after she revealed his grim decision on air to Kyle & Jackie O this morning. The atmosphere was tense, y’all. It honestly felt like a trip to the principal’s office and I don’t think this is the right time and place to address “behavioural issues”.

When judges attack a contestant’s character on live television with cameras rolling, I struggle to see how it can be taken as “constructive criticism” rather than a blatant attempt to destroy the person’s public favour. The voting lines were just opened, the man had delivered the best performance he’s ever done in the competition and that was the last thing on everyone’s mind. As a performer himself, I thought Guy could appreciate how public attention on an artist’s off-stage antics can detract from the music.

However, on the flip side, I’ve read discussions supporting Guy’s decision to expose Mitchell and it’s not all wrong. The X Factor is a public-voted show and a contestant’s likability is equally as important as their vocal capabilities. Therefore, voters deserve to know who they’re really voting for – and they can then decide whether Mitchell’s off-camera “rudeness” really matters in the grand scheme of things. You can’t ever really separate someone’s persona from their on air performance in a show like this. You can’t take “feelings” and impressions about the performers out of the equation.

It would seem that Guy was sparing us the details for Mitchell’s greater good because if the real tea had gone out about the 25-year old concreter “picking on” young Declan Sykes, the backlash would’ve been immense and he wouldn’t have polled favourably at all. The Daily Telegraph reports that there was a verbal and physical clash between the tatted-up man and the fair-haired teen ten years his junior after Mitchell “pricked [him] with a pin”. This is school yard stuff, y’guys.

Now that we’ve addressed the headline-grabbing issue of the night, let’s check out the other catfights and spotlight moments of this week’s live show:

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X Factor Australia: Live Shows Week Two

This week’s “party anthems” theme virtually had us all evacuating the dance floor with snoozer after snoozer of forgettable performances. There’s really only five or six – at best – well bankable contestants in this year’s live shows and sadly, we’re gonna have to endure another month of fillers before the cull narrows it down to a hit line up.

I sounded the alarms last week when a “party anthems” theme was called. In some ways, I’ve had to mince my words like Mel B usually does when she’s proven wrong about a performance, but in other ways, no – my predictions of cheesy and uninspiring adaptations of pop up-tempos proved totally on point.

Where last week had clear revelations in Audio Vixen and Young Men’s Society, this week the two alpha groups struggled to slay as hard as the competition’s two young guns: Reece Mastin and Christina Parie. The spunky teen pair respectively owned their covers of Katy Perry‘s ‘I Kissed A Girl’ [Editor’s note: There’s a Limmy rant on the song choice further down – you don’t wanna fan the flames] and Cyndi Lauper‘s SingStar classic ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’.

Round two of the live shows tournament flaunted some nod-worthy improvements from Johnny Ruffo, who captured us with an appropriate rendition of Jay Sean‘s ‘Down’, while old salty nuts Andrew Wishart took a chance on a Queen classic that paid off handsomely.

Ronan Keating remains infallible with all three of his groups coming correct once again but down at the other end, Mel B appears to have dropped the ball with two of her girls – Jacqui Newland and Tyla Bertolli – stepping off with unpolished and flaccid vocal performances. The pair unsurprisingly wound up in our bottom two this week, which actually led to some rather scary results when Mel B chose to personally abort one of them from the competition.

Check out the hits and misses from this week’s party line, and a read on the dramatic Power Bottom Two situation:

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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:

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X Factor Australia: Judges House Episodes – The Final Three

I can’t say it was too hard but I managed to call out 10 out of the 12 acts that were cherry picked to hit the live shows.

The competition is fiercer this year on X Factor Australia but judging by the folks put through, I think we’re gonna be well entertained by bankable contestants who have the potential to deliver a mix of quirky and mainstream-appealing performances. It’s all down to the song choices now and how original the arrangements can be because Lord Beysus knows that it was the prosaic karaoke snooze fest of last year’s series that bored me to tears.

Despite my general cosy satisfaction with the choice of final 12 acts, there were a few major upsets with this cull that even I struggled to justify. Once again, the lovable Guy Sebastian threw himself under the bus – this time for controversially putting Johnny Ruffo through over the more polished heart throb Trent Bell, who had to endure his second X Factor premature rejection. You and I will have a word about this later down the post. Deep breaths, ladies.

Elsewhere, competition favourite Up Front tragically missed out on representing Ronan‘s category in the live shows. It’s a good thing RoRo came to his senses after Rupaul offered this comforting word of wisdom because the tran ma is never wrong. But to be real, the tone-deaf Melbourne twins have given this series some of the most unforgettable quotes yet and I hope somebody signs them up to a Steph McIntosh-style reality series that follows the making of their pop debut. They just look so fucking Myspace – it’s cringe but almost the right kind of cringe.

In the midst of all the nerve, tears and guest star judges golf clapping we endured for the last three nights – there was one highlight that shone brighter than the entire competition and history of talent show appearances put together: Beyoncé. Her grace, genuine enthusiasm and astute observation of each under 25 boy’s performance just cancelled everything else that was happening in the world at that minute. I am still rewatching that bit where Guy brought her out and without fail, every single time her face shows up I start howling, crying and shaking like it’s the biggest muhfuggin’ shock in the world. How is she having this effect on me?

Check out other highlights of the judges house eps and, of course, some much valued thoughts on the final three acts in each category.

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X Factor Australia: Boot Camp Episode – The Final Six

There were tears and clutching of pearls when Guy Sebastian, Mel B, Nat Bassingthwaighte and Ronan Keating made their respective culls to only six acts in each category.

Can I just say, no one should really be surprised by the results – especially if your faves failed to bring it or remember the lyrics in their boot camp challenges. You should definitely not be surprised to see all the faces you never got to know in the series get the boot. There’s a reason why show producers never bothered to feature much of them – you were never meant to be.

The boot camp chop seems straightforward enough. You’re either ready for the live shows or you’re not. All the challenges set by the judges gave us a fair indication of who was actually equipped to compete and who displayed the strongest combination of charisma, uniqueness and popstarly ability. Here’s where the reality check comes in for contestants who aren’t polished. If you’re thinking of auditioning and feel like you can get away with “growing through the competition” – you’re taking a major gamble, my friend. The obvious exception being of course, UpFront.

Have the judges got it right? Check out the final six in each category and who I reckon we’ll see in the live shows.

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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.

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X Factor Australia: Audition Episodes Five and Six

In the words of one legendary Minogue, “this is it”. We are done with them auditions. Honestly, if this phase were to drag on any longer I’mma shove someone’s face in a wall. Much like what Mel B tried to do with Ronan in that craftily edited footage of them playing backstage.

It has come to a point in the audition stage where I find myself growing weary of the familiar sentiments and becoming increasingly frustrated with the scarce displays of actual superstar talent. It took six audition episodes and countless montages for X Factor Australia to give me only five or so memorable acts that I can feasibly say is “live show worthy”.

The Richter-ripping shakedown during boot camp is going to be very satisfying for me. Y’all know there have been some iffy performers getting standing ovations and glowing reviews around here but it’s time to get real. I don’t believe this show is about making dreams happen at all. It’s foremost about making engaging family TV that’s spearheaded by music entertainment. So from this point on, I’m gonna pay less attention to life stories and focus more on who’s bringing it.

Before we hit the boot camp and judges house phases, let me remind you of our bet. I called the categories to be anointed as such: Mel B – groups, Ronan Keating – boys, Natalie Bassingthwaighte – girls, Guy Sebastian – over 25s. Please weigh in and may the best category guesser win! 

Let’s take a look at some highlights of the final auditions episodes:

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