The X Factor Group Think: Week Two

The Spinoff knights meet at the television roundtable to discuss from the much-improved second week of X Factor NZ. //

Jack Riddell on Darren Smyth

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This is Darren Smyth, 36 from Point England. He’s one of many who you won’t see on X Factor this year. He was accepted into the audition round, cameras followed him back to his house and met his friends and family, yet after receiving four no’s Darren was left on the cutting room floor for not being weird or bad enough to be funny.

He has several children to several women, whom he rarely sees due to the commitment he has made to his subpar singing/rapping. He still won’t be able to feed any of them, because some smug producer decided to bump Darren to give the “Soul Sisters” their fifteen seconds of fleeting TV3 fame. Darren, like scores of other woeful kiwi acts, will now never have a William Hung-esque career he so desperately hoped he would score by coming on this steaming pile of home-grown reality.

So next time you’re watching X Factor with your KFC bucket and bong, laughing your ass off as some talentless middle-aged desperado gets giggled off the stage by the crowd and patronising judges panel, think of Darren and his hungry kids,. Think of Darren, the dude who never got the chance to be on TV, just so you could have a quick LOL at someone less talented than you with a slightly funnier looking face.

Joseph Harper’s New Zealand’s Kids Got Singing

Little BoyAm I the only one who’s extremely creeped out by the fact that they have prepubescent boys and girls on this show?

Like it’s all g for him to go on this dumb show that however many hundreds of thousands of people are gonna watch but he’s not allowed to crack into a beer or work full-time or buy a gun or an instant kiwi or have a bit of sex.

Is having sex more of a big deal than going on X Factor? Seems weird. Oh well.

Nic Sampson on the rude busker

Kudos to the rude busker at the end of the last ep who defiantly told everyone she wouldn’t be moulded by the judges during bootcamp. Admittedly she said it backstage instead of to their faces, and after they had put her through not before; but assuming the judges don’t actually watch the daily rushes and none of the producers told them and also the judges probably don’t even care so actually what is my point?

Oh yes, kudos to that busker. Far too many contestants are already agreeing to be moulded and worked on without remembering that New Zealander’s don’t like to be moulded. We’re like the hobbits in Lord of the Rings (I’m assuming nobody else has drawn this parallel before?). We don’t want to be told how sing better or how to put on liquid eyeliner or where to buy Mel’s army jacket from the Coldplay wars. We just want to be left alone to till our earth and drink our ale and turn mellow acoustic songs into even mellower acoustic covers.

Change us you won’t judges! Look at Benny Tipene! All you did to him was give him the courage to start wearing a hat! Or maybe he already had the hat. Maybe he’s always had the hat. Anyway, JUST YOU TRY to get that busker to not look at the ground while she sings! For that ground is Aotearoa, and you will not make us tear our eyes from her bosom!

Duncan Greive on the real Shae Brider

Death is everywhere in X Factor. At the auditions it feels like everyone who arrives at Sky City does so in the memory of a brother, an aunt, a friend or grandma (see Josh Davis below) who passed away once, somewhere back in the mists of time.

Masterton’s Shae Brider, 29, is no different.

“I met some dudes and we went to a bonfire,” he told us. “There was a commotion with two of them and one of them stabbed the other one and he ended up passing away.” Brider framed the incident as though it were a miscarriage of justice, that his mere proximity to those tragic events were enough to get him jailed for six years. That would be a cool X Factor story – a triumph of a man done wrong by life and by the justice system given another shot by the power of song.

Court reports suggest the night unfolded quite differently. “You were simply looking for people that you could assault,” said Justice Miller at sentencing. Brider and some friends got drunk and stoned then found some people to assault. First they beat up Daniel Grey and Greg Parnell on Somme Parade, by the Whanganui river. Next they moved down to the coast, where 16-year-old Jeremy Frew was fatally stabbed in the heart by Hatata while sat in his car at Castlecliff beach. From there they moved back toward the city, ending their night by stabbing Robert Kerrigan in the back.

Brider might well be reformed. I’m sure his family environment was truly a nightmare. It’s good that we live in a country which allows redemption, where convicted criminals can serve their time then sing disastrous Eminem covers on talent shows.

And I’m not expecting X Factor to be 60 Minutes. But it does seem vaguely irresponsible to allow Brider to talk about that apocalyptic night in such throwaway terms without balancing the ledger a little with some reference to what actually happened.

Talia Smith Skypes Her Mum

Mrs Smith is a hilarious woman who loves X Factor and who is also my mum. During our latest Skype session I decided to get her opinion on a few things.

On Willy Moon: “He is a reanimated corpse. The reason why he looks so sweaty is something to do with the chemicals they use to embalm the body with. All I can say to Natalia is ‘run for your fucking life little girl’!”

On the state of the overs category: “Fucking hell.”

On who else could be a judge: “You know that guy… he does those terrible Vodafone ads. Um, Gordon Luck? Yeah, he could probably do okay.”

On the new judges: “I’m just glad pink hair has gone”

Who her early faves are:
“Stan” (despite him not actually being a contestant)
“The ‘lovely face, lovely voice’ girl who worked at Rainbows End.”
“Betty Monga’s son”

Eli Mathewson on Archie Hill

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This show really doesn’t get any better than 14 year-old Hawke’s Bay contestant Archie Hill. After a montage of dreary Ed Sheeran covers he emerged: an adorable robot designed by Zambesi for Kids to win X Factor.

But it doesn’t stop there. This kid deserves his own Disney channel show. I pitch it to you now:
The Amazing Archie Hill’s Animal Adventure.

Picture this: He’s moved to Africa with his family to help them run safaris, but then he discovers he can TALK TO ANIMALS. However, they can only understand sung lyrics to the Ed Sheeran masterpiece “Thinking Out Loud”.

Using just the lyrics of that song he must save the animals from the plight of an evil Poacher (Eugene Levy), all whilst trying to win the heart of the girl he loves (Quvenzhané Wallis).

Thanks for listening to my pitch Disney, MONEY PLEASE xo

Renee Church’s The Hunk Factor

As we see out another great week of X Factor auditions, we have been truly blessed with a “babe overload”. As to be expected, the female youth of New Zealand have been spoiled for choice, with enough floppy-haired boy bands and guitar playing adolescents to last them until next season. In saying that, being a 19 year old female, I feel a little bit like the adult in a kindergarten. They all qualify as hunks, but their prepubescent, unblemished faces are not what I was hoping for. I can honestly say there is not one male whom I could safely stalk on twitter without it being a weird. Where are you, Benny Tipene?

So, teen girls of New Zealand, I would like to offer my sincere congratulations! There are babes-a-plenty for you this season, and I hope you all get a Twitter mention from your favourite X Factor teen heartthrob someday soon.

Joseph Moore’s Pro Viewing Tip

This week I had my first go at a all-work-no-fun condensed three ep viewing session on Tuesday night.

Here’s what to do

– Load up three episodes in your preferred delayed viewing format (MySky / 3Now / your sister relating an episode in laborious detail)

– Make some delicious dinner (I had a chopped salad but this is really up to you)

– With your finger on fast forward, skip through: all sweeping exteriors of the Sky Tower, Madzas driving through picturesque countrysides, forced conversations between families about song choice, montages set to The Script, the performances themselves (once you have the gist).

There you have it, you can watch three and a half hours of content in about 45 minutes. And still not miss a single thing. You’re welcome!

Make the most of those extra two plus hours. Tend your garden, learn a craft, have sex. You do you. Or be like me and just keep consuming content until you can consume no more. You are the king of middling pop culture now! Long Live The King!

Robyn Gallagher Believes in Steve

Let’s think back to the second series of NZ Idol, way back in 2005. The winner was Rosita Vai, last seen as one of guest performer Aaradhna’s backing vocalists on series one of X Factor. The runner-up was Nik Carlson, last seen in the Woman’s Weekly unveiling her new life as mega bae Nikki Lee Carlson.

And there was the third-place-getter, some guy called Steven, a shiny blonde Jesus freak with steely blue eyes, who later showed up on TV2’s celebrity reality music series Pop’s Ultimate Star. Whatever happened to him? Oh, that’s right – he’s now on X Factor, and if episode four is anything to go by, his Idol past has been disappeared.

He’s now Steve the teacher who was really nervous playing the piano as a kid. Steve who belted out an emotional version of “Mirrors” that made everyone cry and then he cried and then we cried some more. His Idol past might not be mentioned, but for those of us who fangirled over Idol back in the day, the return of Steve is our payoff. When there’s some whippersnapper singing a song you’ve never heard of, Steve will be there to make everything ok. Welcome back, Steve. You have been missed. #DILF

Alex Casey on the Magic of Old Man Lindblom

I just want to pay quick tribute to David Lindblom, patron saint of pens, earrings and novelty Mickey Mouse ties. For a brief moment on Monday night, he sliced through the cynicism, the shouting and shitty Sheeran with his Mickey Mouse-print knife of optimism and hope. He was truly terrible, but I still cried tears of joy for him under the light of a thousand stars.


At the very-much-overs age of 55, this foster parent of seven wanted nothing more than to make his children proud. “I don’t want my Dad to be famous because I love him” plead one of his youngest daughters, providing probably the most insightful take on fame that anyone has ever had.

Of course Old Man River got the boot, but I am left wanting way more Lindblom. I want a MediaWorks production of Meet the Lindbloms to get underway next week. I want all of his foster children singing and dancing like in Annie while he croons out African American anthems, blissfully unaware of their quite tense origins.

tiesTill that day comes, I’m happy knowing that (according to his Twitter) David is enjoying an enriched life full of making moonshine, fostering 5000 children and following a clearly fake Mary Tyler Moore account. Keep rollin’ Old Man Lindblom.

Josh Davis’ Dead Grandmas

I didn’t watch the first season of X Factor (please forgive me), so for me the most striking and increasingly infuriating aspect of this season has been the sob stories that are cultivated for some of our contestants. It all just comes across as an excuse to send people to boot camp who aren’t actually talented. Maybe I wouldn’t mind if the sob stories were well-crafted and had genuine pathos, but they’re all bad and have zero pathos whatsoever. Zero! I am rarely moved, unless the backstory involves a chance meeting at a library or being implicated in a murder.

Which brings me to tonight’s sob story theme; dead Grandmas. It is sad when your Grandma dies because she was alive and available to make you bacon & egg pie and brag about your mediocre achievements to strangers, and then she isn’t. It is not a tragedy, however, and especially not when it’s your great-grandmother! People progressively age and then die!

That’s just life, people? I’m anti-dead Grandma now? This show is driving me fucking insane. I’m sorry, Grandmas, I love you! Especially if you’re dead! Shout out all the Grandmas.

Angella Dravis’s Algebraic X Factor

The origins of the x-factor are unclear. I initially thought the x in ‘x-factor’ was for extraordinary, but then I remembered algebra in class. While x is unknown, the various x-factor winners across the world have shared some common traits. In no particular order:

Talent, charisma, attractiveness, vulnerability, ability to overcome personal hardship, and misc.


Y = T(x) + C(x1) + A(x2) + V(x3) + ATOPH(x4)+…b(xn) + e

If we assume that the sum weights of these variables = 100%, we can illustrate all contestants on an efficient frontier. Each contestant is made up of different weights – see the Soul Sisters’ table:

Screen Shot 2015-02-25 at 10.16.30 amIt is the combination of these weights, and their placement on the curve relative to the x-factor line that determines who has the ‘xfactor’. If we plot contestants on a graph, we get the following graph:



Screen Shot 2015-02-25 at 10.16.37 amThe placing and weighting on this graph is not important  as it was constructed based on my personal preferences. What is important is the x-factor line (XF), and what weightings the judges are looking for (these are ‘x-factors’).  This is what the judges use (cognitively or intuitively) to determine who – from the efficient frontier – constrains to their definition of ‘x-factor’.

There are two points on this frontier which cross the XF. This is denoted on the graph as a blue dot, and a red dot. The blue dot shows the minimum varience (a contestant who is a safer bet),  and the red dot shows who the optimum choice (a contestant who is risky but a judge decides is worth gambling on).

Risk in this particular game is vague. There are endless risks systemic from categories: e.g. having a pensioner attempt to appeal to the masses, and on the opposite side, the risk of having a tween blows their first pay check on drugs. For this reason I have added vulnerability. It can be argued that there is a both a negative and positive influence to vulnerability. Vulnerability may allow a judge to coach and mentor a contestant, and also open a contestant to take on external pressures.

It will be interesting to see the judges definitions of ‘x-factor’ emerge from further viewings. I hope to update the frontier graph every week, and give reasons for my weightings and standard deviations. If I’m right, I think I can predict the next X Factor winner.

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