The X Factor NZ: Power Rankings #4

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Maybe it’ll all make sense in a few weeks. Maybe the third live and elimination shows of the first season of New Zealand’s X Factor will, in time, come to represent the beginning of the precipitous descent of Christchurch’s glory boys. Or maybe it was just that Fletcher finally remembered where he left his throat, lifting the spirits of a nation’s pop consumers and draining the mobile credit of the same. Either way, I don’t think anyone expected to see Moorhouse up for elimination this week. On the real, the possibility that they’d ACTUALLY be going home was already remote, and after taking into consideration their competition in the bottom two there really wasn’t any question. But while perpetual languishers L.O.V.E. were probably heading back to Hamilton regardless of what happened on Sunday (for what it’s worth, their performance was probably their best and easily their most contemporary, shambolic though it was), the presence of the show’s great boyband hope in the week’s least popular acts may at least quell the fears of those who thought they’d make it to the final few on pouts alone.

In fact, despite appearances to the contrary earlier on, there looks to be a reasonable amount of depth in this field. Though this week’s song choices and subsequent performances were, for the most part, deeply uninspiring, I’m not yet seeing any cause for alarm. The remaining ten acts have become much more comfortable as performers, and given that the ratio of ‘good’ to ‘glaringly terrible’ has never been better, I’m willing to blame the bulk of the aforementioned dreariness on most British popular music being very bad. On that true and wholly incontestable note, onto the rankings:

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1. Benny Tipene (Boys – 2) – performing “This Charming Man” by The Smiths

And so continues the rise of Palmerston North’s finest. Though performing without the security of his guitar may have seemed a risky move, and performing a song by The Smiths doubly so, Benny’s ability to transmute his constant semi-bemusement into genuine charisma continues to serve him very well. Though I know very little about the mentors’ real input levels, if we’re to assume that Ruby Frost is spearheading this direction, she’s clearly more comfortable with Benny’s aesthetic than any of her other acts. I’m skeptical about the long-term longevity of performing songs by artists beloved mainly by males aged 25-40, but if it means less ‘quirky’ R&B covers I will never complain

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My wife insisted that we watch “10 Things I Hate About You” after this, I’m starting to feel very threatened.

2. Cassie Henderson (Girls – 3) – performing “Unwritten” by Natasha Bedingfield

I feel like this is probably going to be the most contentious ranking this week, and to be honest it’s the one that I’m least certain about. Cassie’s contribution at the first live show was hamstrung by a misguided song choice and terrible direction, and Daniel’s suggestion that she perform a number by his barely-notable sister was legitimate cause for concern, but against all odds it sort of worked. While solid and only occasionally remarkable – with presentation that resembled most closely some sort of low-rent deodorant commercial – her performance was another solid step above her previous efforts. Where other contestants peaked earlier, only to drop or plateau, Cassie’s trajectory during her time on the show has been nothing if not consistent. There’s still a fair amount of improvement needed, but she’s clearly capable, and anyone voting for her to this point hasn’t been given a reason to stop yet.

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This whole scene was incredibly awkward and not very interesting, but uh, Natasha Bedingfield look like Avatar.

3. Gap 5 (Groups – 1) – performing “Pure Shores” by All Saints

I’m not sure that it was really by their own doing, but this week still saw a big step backwards from the previously untouchable Gap 5. Vocally they struggled, though it seemed more due to a bad mix and a flat arrangement – particularly through the very stunted chorus – than their execution, and their styling was more Backstreet Boys circa 1999 than All Saints circa anytime ever. As inferred, I’d hesitate to place much of the blame for either of these issues at the feet of the girls, and neither was overly significant anyway, but coming off two insane performances, this was definitely a slip.

4. Whenua Patuwai (Boys – 5) – performing “Somebody to Love” by Queen

Another very good vocal, on another very uninteresting song. Whenua can and will sing mid-tempo belters exactly this well forever, and that’s absolutely a skill, but it’s just not that exciting. I’ll admit that I’m very much looking forward to his performance in next week’s soul special, I’m just praying that he gets to sing something a little more interesting.

5. Fletcher Mills (Boys – 10) – performing “Your Song” by Elton John

Finally, Fletch, you made it. I’m not convinced that any aspect of Fletcher’s performance warrants a rating this high, but given the fact that he’s popular enough to stay out of the bottom two even when struggling terribly, I also don’t think it’s unrealistic. His introduction – speaking with Ruby about the bullying he faced after the earlier live shows, and to a lesser extent the support he’s received – demanded a strong performance, and he delivered. Relatively, at least. It was still pitchy, but there was a confidence present that hadn’t been, and none of the palpable terror of before. I’m not going to pretend that he’s suddenly my favourite contestant, or that I can suddenly see him winning the contest, but at least he’s having some fucking fun. Good for you, Fletch.

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“Let’s have a toast for the douchebags / let’s have a toast for the assholes” – Kanye Fletchst

6. Moorhouse (Groups – 4) – performing “Every Breath You Take” by The Police

God, this was just crazy dull. Though probably the best showcase we’ve seen of the individual Moorhouses’ voices, as they trilled and mugged all over their source material, their tendency to equate seriousness with intensity meant that “I’ll be watching you” felt more like some sort of threat than anything at all romantic. Further to my comments about their poor showing in the public voting, I’ve seen some speculation that their inclusion in the bottom two was some sort of contrivance to siphon yet more increments of $0.99 from the wallets of the Gullible Youth. However exciting the prospect of match fixing may be, however, I’m not convinced. Moorhouse performed a lackluster song, early in the show, on a night where almost everyone performed strongly or at least more strongly. Whether their brief brush with mortality will provide the necessary inspiration to reach new heights remains to be seen, but at least they’ll have to start putting in work.

7. Māka Fiso (Over 25s – 9) – performing “The Scientist” by Coldplay

Māka showed signs of the greatness glimpsed in the first show again this week, though not quite to the same extent. His rendition of ‘The Scientist’ was certainly very good, but considering the fact that his main competition in the “Polite Dude with Piano” stakes was the phoenix-like return of Fletcher Mills, he unfortunately lost a little shine. Regardless, like Whenua, he should excel in this week’s soul episode, and ultimately I think he’s reasonably safe for the time being.

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Stan Walker, adult, taking criticism well.

8. Anna Wilson (Over 25s – 8) – performing “Mama Do” by Pixie Lott

After her brief and deeply MOR excursion into Hillsong-pop on the last show, Anna stepped up every aspect of her performance this week. Though ‘Mama Do’ is objectively a terrible song, she performed it capably and convincingly, and her staging and styling was so clearly better than last week that it barely warrants mentioning. On form she absolutely deserves to be in the competition, but given that she remains less an unknown quantity than a thoroughly unmemorable one, I’m by no means confident that she’ll be around after the double elimination.

9. Tom Batchelor (Boys – 6) – performing “Come Together” by The Beatles

I’m just kinda bored with dude now. He’s got one mode, and while he’s definitely quite good at it, that mode is “loud and unsettling”. I’m expecting Tom to be the first of Ruby’s boys to head home, though given his lack of engagement with the idea of the competition to date, I’m also expecting Tom to care very little about this.

10. Jackie Thomas (Girls – 7) – performing “Dreams” by Fleetwood Mac

Sadly, given that this week’s rendition of the deeply un-British ‘Dreams’ continued her trend for never-ending and thoroughly underwhelming performances, I’d say we’ll soon see the end of Jackie’s tenure on the X Factor. Happily, though, the editing this week made it seem as though her and Tom are now common-law wed, so at least they can expect to enjoy many wonderful years together.

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God bless, Jackie and Tom, all the best.

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So, despite arguably the most boring of the live shows to date, the competition is now closer than ever. Given that this weekend will see the 10 remaining acts take on “Soul Classics”, an ill-defined theme but one which will presumably require some actual vocal performances, expect to see a few more risks, and hopefully some more noticeable highs and lows. It’s actually kind of hard to write these when no one fucks up dreadfully. Please, someone fuck up dreadfully.

 

 

 

 

6 Comments

  1. I agree with your top 3, especially your number 1. This has nothing to do with performance or raw talent, but I feel like people are gonna stop giving a f**k about Whenua, Maaka and Anna real soon. Good, but boring ain’t the best combo.

  2. For me, L.O.V.E’s cover of Pass Out was ready the highlight of the series so far. And I would much rather see a couple of awkward Hamilton girl rappers jumping through that number than slip into a coma from Moorhouse. Bloody hell, Purest Form doing the Rainbow’s End theme song is more entertaining than week-three Moorhouse.

  3. joseph says:

    did you really think anna ‘old gold’ wilson’s styling/staging was better? i thought it was just as out of touch as ever. would go so far as to say it was a disaster. that top? really?

    moorehouse seem oblivious. why so serious? is it a cultural thing (hopefully that doesn’t sound racist. honest question.)?

    • matthew says:

      It wasn’t great, sure, but at least it was on brand. Anna’s never going to get thru on a piety ticket (for what it’s worth, I don’t actually think she’s going to go much further on any ticket), so she might as well do her, fringed singlets and all.

      Re: Moorhouse, I think it’s the post-One Direction self-consciousness that’s to blame. Everything’s deeply considered, so serious songs are delivered looking like pallbearers, happy songs are on some wide-grin 3am-at-Coro-Gold double-drop shit. There is absolutely nothing in between. I guess that means they’re not oblivious enough?

      • joseph says:

        damn. very well reasoned response re moorhouse.

        feel like anna needs to wear blue jeans and a white tank top and get real earnest and desperate.

  4. Talia says:

    Def agree with number one and three but not sure about Cassie – it just sounded like a jumbly mess, like too many words in one breath for her to sing so it ended up coming out kind of rambling and nonsensical. I genuinely liked her audition and judges retreat performances and I feel she needs to get back to that – the songs she has done live have been boring and don’t really show any kind of range.

    And for the love of god stop listening to Daniel and his lame directions when it comes to how to act on the stage – all the jumping and weird movements kind of tires her out.

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