The X Factor NZ: Power Rankings #2

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This past weekend meant the first New Zealand X Factor live shows, their arrival awaited for me with something between apprehension and deep, pure excitement. Thankfully, the latter quickly prevailed, my capacity for ironic detachment drilled into dust over three of the most glorious non-sport-related hours of live television in our fair nation’s history. Like the Homai te Pakipaki finals occurring entirely within a deep fever dream, a meek West Auckland soundstage was transformed into something that, if you squinted during the wide shots, looked exactly as good as the Australian set. I don’t want to sound like I’m damning with faint praise, but for me that’s legitimately exciting. This is high budget, high production valued television and – save perhaps a few missing extractor fans for the post-pyro shots – it was pretty close to perfect.

Given the auspiciousness of the occasion, it really only felt right to call in The Corner’s most prestigious pinch hitter. Former editor of Real Groove, deeply concerned with New Zealand on Air and recently officially recognised as a Good Ass Writer, Duncan Greive also has a lot of opinions about this frivolous shit. We shared a few.

D – Hey Buddy

M – Ay!

So, two whole episodes of live television in the bag

And the worst thing by far has been Willy Moon

How are you feeling about this whole singing contest thing?

D – I bloody love it.

I feel like it’s a new high water mark for New Zealand making non-terrible TV. First Top of the Lake, and now this.

Also, can’t deny that me and the missus exchanged emphatic high fives after Bianca had to pack her knives and go.

M – Felt deeply conflicted about it, to be honest.

D – whaaa?!

M – Like, she obviously had zero interest in being there, and was absolutely unsuited to the contest

But that was why Bianca was so great!

Extreme indifference and discomfort will take you a long way

D – True. But there’s a an aesthetic clarity to X-Factor’s being about finding a new pop star.

If the judges chose her over L.O.V.E. that would’ve been hopelessly muddied.

Can I just take this opportunity to point out that Tom Batchelor looks EXACTLY like a poster of Syd Barrett I had on my wall as a teen.

He’s growing on me, like a fungal infection. That simian sway is diabolical

M – He’s just a true as weirdo

Working-in-apple-orchards, going-to-Solstice-raves, freegan-ass weirdo.

D – Yes! I bet he gets all kind of ass with those shamanic vibes.

M – He has no need for your “shirts”

D – Or your “toilet doors”

M – What do you make of Anna Wilson having already had a go at this whole “pop singer” thing?

D – I’m OK with it.

Like, it’s a good ‘get’, and will become a legit story at some point.

But really – it’s about finding a star – whatever she was, she weren’t that.

M – Yeah, and to be honest, I kind of doubt that she’s going to be around much longer anyway. Landslide was somewhere between good and very, but the exact issues that she faced as an Illegal Musik-style artist are still there.

She’s still just another tall, pretty, reasonably good singer

D – Yeah totally – Brooke Duff has that market – to the extent that it exists at all – locked down.

So, if not her (and, obviously not her for the reasons you state) then who? Give me three plausible winners. Not based on showing out so far, not who you like. Who can win?

M – Ok though, 3 potential winners:

Moorhouse. They’ve got a long way to go, and once the competition thins down they’re not going to be able to coast on backstage ab shots, but they’re mad popular. Like 30k facebook fans popular

D – They have the MEANEST abs, though.

I was sitting behind one of their dads. Hardout dreaded dude. He was LOVELY. Made me stop dissing them real quick.

M – Whenua Patuwai. Obviously I’ve been pretty vocal about liking dude, but with the right coaching he could legitimately be at least as big as Stan. Rolling in the Deep was a serious misstep, but it’s not really a song that ever lends itself to live performance. Needs those studio dynamics. I wanna see dude singing “Blurred Lines” or something.

D – I actually liked Rolling in the Deep. A lot. Started shaky, but he brought in some mean phrasing and subtle inflections toward the end that were killer.

M – The half-speed was the saving grace.

He was definitely a LOT more comfortable once the beat dropped out

D – I think he needs slowies to show all he has. Cry Me a River or What Goes Around I reckon. Buueast.

But yeah, he is a true sanga, we’re v lucky to have him.

M – and for the third, Jackie

D – WHOA. Did you just mis-type Cassie really badly?

Jackie could maybe have a lil career. But I don’t even know what she is.

M – I’m still not convinced, but if they’re going H.A.M. on the Lana Del Ray/Birdy thing (which they are), I think she could get mad votes. Those women are popular as hell.

I’d love to say GAP5 or Cassie, but I don’t think New Zealand’s ready for G5 and I don’t think Cassie is ready for this.

I honestly think the best thing for her would be a 5th-ish round exit and a subsequent development deal

On that Annah Mac / Lorde shit in 4 years.

D – I think Cassie was born ready. Her big issue (and this is a problem for Jackie too) is that her coach is completely fucking insane.

Cassie is real. Sunny, unaffected, charming. So composed for her age. Took harsh criticism real well. But Daniel is treating her like Miley, when she could be a convincing Taylor. Jamie McDell should be concerned.

M – I actually respect the hell out of Mel and Ruby for that crit

D – Oh yeah. Judges were so, so good in the live show. I love em.

All of em

M – Should we get onto GAP5 then?

Bro.

D – Yeah.

They are the fucking coolest.

Make me proud as 2 b a kiwi. They are polished bro.

M – Oh totally. That was my concern initially; they’ve obviously put a lot of work in outside of this, which I thought may have limited their malleability. I think I was wrong

D – I think you were too.

My daughter is super into Little Mix, and already kinda likes G5 more.

They could be proper big, right?

M – Yep. The only obstacle being that they’re in New Zealand

D – That’s less of an obstacle than ever, though, now, See: Lorde (again)

M – Yeah, but I mean more in the context of the show. I hope more than anything that people vote for them, but I fear that we’re too culturally sadsack.

D – Yeah I agree that’s a big potential roadblock. They’re almost too perfect – literally all different shapes and colours.

M – It almost seems trite to reduce them to their diversity, but it’s a big deal right? Like, this is the modern New Zealand cultural landscape. From South Africa to South Korea, via Masterton or something.

D – I don’t think it’s trite. It’s part of why your heart sings watching them. Knowing that it’ll be confronting so many assumptions in living rooms around the country.

Maybe they were made in a ministry of culture and heritage lab. Is that impossible?

M – Ethics aside, it was definitely worthwhile.

D – I also think we have a problematic relationship with boy/girl bands.

Moorhouse and G5 could help us get over that though. With the right writers/producers they could both be properly big here.

M – Talking Moorhouse v G5, I really think G5 are better by a large margin.

At the moment at least

D – Oh me too. Moorhouse have the ripped as torsos, but they’re wooden, tentative. And maybe getting a bit too in love with the attention before they’ve earned it. Which can be dangerous.

We haven’t mentioned Maaka…

M – Maaka!

D – He KOed the night. Standing O at the live show.

And ripped the beat off a Guetta song!

Who does that?! The balls on that man!

Terrific arrangement.

M – Big spanner in the works

Big gainer in the rankings.

What about Benny?

D – Benny. I really can’t stand that man. But he could win.

I feel sick.

M – I can’t hate him, he’s too handsome

D – He’s got a wonky nose, but he is a bit of a cutie pie.

(Speaking of which: TYP are winning the whole thing next year. They should just announce that now and call the next one season III. )

M – But yeah, in a post Lumineers world, he could kill it

And though that’d be bad, it’d be better than The Lumineers.

D – Why must you keep reminding me we live in a post-Lumineers world?

=====

And with that, Power Rankings:

1. Gap 5 (Groups – 4) – My main concern with GAP5 when I wrote the first round of rankings was that they’d be misdirected, or somehow struggle to take direction. As conceded above, if their show-opening performance was any indication, I needn’t have worried. Though slightly flat in parts, they’re insanely charismatic and had a level of confidence thoroughly unexpected from a New Zealand pop group, let alone one making their debut live TV performance. But from Gap 5, none of this was really surprising. They’ll live or die, as will all of these acts, on the whims of the New Zealand public, and at this stage of the competition it’s hard to know exactly what that public wants. Based on performance alone, though, no one else could possibly be at the top.

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This one performance cost more than an entire series of New Zealand’s Got Talent. Also the astroturf is repurposed from Jason Kerrison’s post-apocalypse pleasure dome.

2. Maaka Fiso (Over 25s – 7) – Dude just straight deaded it. Helped by great song, staging and arrangement choices, but it was the voice that did it. Like most of the contestants, he started a little weak, but unlike some of the others, it didn’t last. You can’t roll out a stripped back Guetta anthem every week, and it certainly played to the strengths that had already been well established with Maaka, but there was absolutely nothing false about the ovation at the end. I don’t think it’ll last forever, but if he can show some range, I could well be wrong.

3. Moorhouse (Groups – 1) – Even though their performance – the nadir of their time on the show so far – was definite bottom three in terms of actually sounding like a real song being sung by human beings with working ears and throats, literally no one who was considering voting for them cares about that at all. As I mentioned in the Gap 5 piece, it’s going to take a few weeks to properly ascertain how people are really voting here, but I’m not expecting to see Moorhouse in the bottom two anytime soon. Their success in this competition is going to depend largely on their ability to divorce the adulation of their legion fans from their actual progression as a group, and for their sake I hope they don’t start laurel resting. To paraphrase Duncan, they could be big, they just need to realise that they’re not quite yet.

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My fave Moorhouse is D Dot Styles. You know the one.

4. Anna Wilson (Over 25s – 11) – In stark contrast to Moorhouse, Anna Wilson turned in comfortably the best performance of her tenure on the X Factor. ‘Landslide’ is a dead up classic, and while there was nothing altogether remarkable about her performance – Melanie called it ‘perfection’, which was true in the same way that ‘a nice sunset’ or ‘a nice salad’ can occasionally seem perfect – she certainly seemed comfortable in the setting. I don’t think Anna is going to win, or even be a serious contender, but I’m not mad that she’ll be around a little longer.

5. Whenua Patuwai (Boys – 2) – I just really didn’t like this song choice. Whenua’s not a particularly limited performer, but a 17 year old making his live television debut is never really going to be able to make themselves at home on an Adele track. The performance was well pitched and reasonably consistent, but from the massive high that was his judges’ retreat effort, this was undoubtedly a massive step down. You’d be crazy to count him out though.

6. Benny Tipene (Boys – 5) – Probably Ruby’s most astute song choice of the week, covering The Kooks’ dead-eyed version of modern soul classic “Crazy” being a clear throwback to Benny’s similar first round treatment of the similarly classic “Hey Ya”. I can’t appreciate this style of winking pseudo-reverence on any level, but I understand I’m in the minority on this one. I could see Benny getting big, though he’s still on the wrong side of the aloof/intriguing line in terms of charisma. Also he looks like young Heath Ledger. Ain’t no one complaining about that.

benneath

Ya feel me?

7. Cassie Henderson (Girls – 3) – Cassie obviously deserves to be ranked higher than this, but she’s really at the mercy of her mentor at this stage. Hopelessly dated presentation of a song that couldn’t be less suited to her range or less relevant to her existence on the show thus far. She’s got insane potential, but unless Bedingfield figures out how to manage it, she’s not long for the competition.

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No one needed to see this. Mean curtain pants though!

8. Jackie Thomas (Girls – 9) – Literally anyone can sing ‘Video Games’ as well as that. I’m not even exaggerating, give it a go. You sound great. It’s clear that the producers are trying to posit Jackie as New Zealand’s answer to Birdy (the UK alumni responsible for the Bon Iver cover that Jackie performed in the audition round), right down to arranging Skype conversations between the two, which is why I can see her sticking around. She is being pitched directly at your mum, and your mum is just fully loving it.

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Iuno about you, but my mum LOVES classy shit. Gowns and that. Vote now.

9. Tom Bachelor (Boys – 8) – Pros: Technically kind of solid, certainly less yelling than usual, looks a lot like Austin Powers. Cons: Looking like Austin Powers is cool and funny but not an applicable skill, not a very good performance.

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#shagadelic

10. L.O.V.E. (Groups – 6) – Based on their elimination show performance, L.O.V.E. could very easily have gone home. Based on their Sunday night performance, they should never have been in the bottom two. I’m not sure how wide the market is for rap so obviously indebted more to Run DMC than anything post-1996, but that ‘Rapture’ refix was a blast – terrible initial harmonies excluded. If they’re going to struggle based on performances of that quality, I think their days are severely numbered, but I would really like to be wrong.

11. Fletcher Mills (Boys – 13) – Just a terrible performance. He’s clearly capable of more, and clearly feels a little naked without some sort of instrument, but you can’t really make excuses for a vocal as weak as that. Beautiful teeth will only get you so far.

12. Taye Williams (Over 25s – 10) – Drowning out there. Would be watching from home, if not for the fact that he’s basically a one man Moorhouse that also knows how to change a tyre. Only possible justification for his continued presence is that he’s needed to drive the Ford Kuga when they eventually take it out of the Cross Street Carpark.

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Very worthwhile location shoot, swagged out windscreen cover, A+

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So that’s how I’m calling it for week one. Realistically, it’s going to take a few weeks to figure out the real frontrunners based on actual popularity, but if the show stays as unpredictable as this, I’ll be happy. Get at me in the comments with your hot picks and ad hominem insults, I don’t have much else to do so I will be closely reading them all.

13 Comments

  1. Talia says:

    I feel like Stan and Mel are probably the best coaches – Ruby’s song choice for Whenua (who I love!) and Tom were not good and Daniel Beddingfield…what the hell was that loon on? His song choice reminded me of what Britney did to Carly Rose whatsherface from X Factor US.

    I am just not sold on Jackie Thomas, she bores me and I felt like she had changed her voice to sound like Lana Del Ray’s far too much,

    Can I also just mention how crazy Daniel Beddingfield was “I thought Ruby would vote for art”, “well we’ve established that Stan loves everyone on this show”….bitch was catty that night!

  2. Talia says:

    Also Taye Williams sucks but I feel like he relates well to the Dad’s of NZ – the fans of the likes of Opshop and The Feelers.

  3. I like a good X Factor discussion.

    The show needs L.O.V.E. They’re one of the few acts who – at least at this stage – do not look terrified and aren’t afraid of running around the stage, actually entertaining the audience with their dorky but fun raps.

    I figure Fletcher’s going to be safe for weeks and weeks regardless of his talent (ditto Moorhouse), which is sure to result in more than a few controversial eliminations.

  4. Your Eden/Bianca comparison is very true. They went to the same high school , same year. Same person?

  5. Hussein says:

    re: Anna Wilson and not sure if anyone mentioned this yet, but Taye Williams also had a Slavov video from a few years back.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DlksCQUIv0k

  6. Siobhan says:

    i’m lovin this eh matt. marley moorhouse’s blue steel! is he having a laugh or what

  7. I don’t believe that the four ‘mentors’ are solely responsible for the song choices for a second.
    Mediaworks heads and Exec producers aren’t sitting at home watching like the rest of us saying, “Oh shit Daniel gave her that song?” DBed wouldn’t be the only one pushing Cassie that way

  8. Benza says:

    Was Taye’s departure from the show rigged because he has had NZOA funding before?

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