The morning after the X Factor final a workmate told me he was on his way to interview Beau Monga. “Oh yeah?” I said. “What’s Boh been up to?” “Uh… winning X Factor?” Ah shit. Why had I assumed he was talking about Boh Runga, who fronted the band Stellar* 15 years ago, rather than Beau Monga, who I watched win X Factor 15 hours ago?
The answer, I suspect, is twofold. On the one hand, I’m a deeply moronic individual. But on the other, this year’s X Factor was such a remarkably joyless grind that it seemed like people were forgetting it before it had even happened, like some kind of instinctive coping mechanism was kicking in. When Beau – the best, most talented and creative contestant – eventually won, there was little celebration, or even acknowledgement of his victory. The unspoken feeling was that by winning, he was sort of the loser.
But did the end justify the means? Beau’s self-written single ‘King & Queen’, which he debuted in the grand final, was surprisingly good – at least, much better than X Factor deserved. During the final, @_snozzberry_ tweeted “I could fuck to this,” which stands as probably the best and most succinct piece of New Zealand music criticism this year, maybe ever.
‘King & Queen’ is a simple, versatile track which could be amped up to a charging Shapeshifter D’n’B anthem just as readily as it could be reduced down to a bubbling UMO treacle. As the first song on Beau’s album it’s a promising start. You could fuck to it, but if you last any longer than 3 minutes 19 seconds you’re in big trouble.
I can honestly think of very few things more grim than having sex to Beau’s cover of ‘Hit the Road Jack’. And that’s all the album is from here on out – all the boring, baffling, and bad covers he performed during his awkward X Factor adolescence. None of them are especially terrible, they’re just exactly what you would have expected they’d sound like recorded in a studio in a hurry by an unambitious engineer.
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Brother Love’s ‘Ruketekete Te Mamae’ (‘the Roimata Song’) and a faithful cover of Che Fu’s ‘Fade Away’ are highlights, and perhaps best indicate the kind of direction Beau might pursue if and when he’s ever unencumbered by the X Factor albatross around his neck. The bulk of tracks, however, are superfluous and inferior material that no amount of slap bass (‘Insane in the Brain’) or Baby Dub (‘Jammin’) can make up for.
Still, the fact that Beau’s only writing credit is the best track on the album by about 1000 per cent is an encouraging sign, and he was probably wise – not that he likely had much say in the matter – to hold back any other originals he might have up his sleeve at this point. While this season might have broken any faith I had in X Factor, I still hold out hope for Beau.
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