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Music MondayMarch 2, 2015

Music Monday: Where The Office and X Factor Collide

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This Music Monday, Alex Casey draws parallels between a fake singing competition featured within The Office and all the thrills, spills and celebrities of X Factor NZ. //

The past few weeks have been filled with a literal and metaphorical airing of X Factor NZ‘s dirty laundry. We have had Slim Shady killers being edited out faster than a verse in ‘Rap God’, Trademe barons taking marketing to a whole new level of grubby excellence, and ex-NZ Idol contestants hurtling themselves back into the dim light of talent show exposure. It almost all sounds too good to be true, with the tears, drama and B-grade celebrity appearances becoming parody upon parody. It’s getting hard to know what’s real anymore.

This is where The Office US comes in. Amongst the X Factor NZ fever, I have been constantly reminded of an episode in season nine where Andy Bernard enters a fictional singing competition called America’s Next Great A Cappella Sensation. After quitting his job, burning his bridges with Scranton and heading to the audition – this is Andy’s one big chance at fame. For those who may not be familiar, Andy is played by Ed Helms (of The Hangover fame), who spends a lot of time belting out show tunes just a few decibels too loud. At the end of the series, he has done his time as manager, and is ready to move on to the greener, louder pastures of competitive a capella singing.

The fake singing competition featured within the show starts out as a joke but quickly becomes eerily recognisable. I have taken the liberty of drawing parallels between the events that unfold between America’s Next Great A Cappella Sensation and the latest season of The X Factor NZ, to show how the line between parody and reality has all but disappeared.

The Real Judges vs The Fake Judges

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A good thing about America is that they can make a parody judge lineup that still delivers 100,000 times more star power than that time Vanessa Hudgens came here recently and had a swim. Let’s start with fake judge Clay Aiken, who came second in American Idol season two. Clearly a funny joke to get an ex-talent show contestant back to judge another crappy talent show, right? Clearly a hilarious parody of the bottomless eco-system created by singing competitions, right? It’s not like we’d see anything that ridiculous in real life, right?

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Santigold can be Natalia Kills – just famous enough to know her name and perhaps her face, but not famous enough to avoid staying in a creepy Rotorua motel. I’m not saying Santigold has stayed in that same motel, I’m just saying she would stay in the American equivalent. Maybe somewhere gross on the outskirts of Vegas. Willy Moon can be Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rogers, because I know equal amounts of nothing about either of them. Mel Blatt can be the water bottle.

The Real Host vs The Fake Host


Mark McGrath of Sugar Ray fame is the fake host of the America’s Next A Capella Sensation, and it’s pretty hard to ignore the similarities to our own Dominic Bowden. The vertical hair, the simultaneously ageless and yet severely aged face, the slight application of luminous bronzer – all the signs are there. Plus they are both just deities in their own right. Hilarious, hilarious deities.

The Benjamin Button Factor


Andy decides to disguise himself as an old man for the audition, in an attempt to go viral. It’s a classic singing competition trick to highlight your shocking age – not unlike X Factor NZ‘s own Jazzy. Andy is 40, but has the visage of an 80 year-old. Jazzy is 14, but has the visage of 30 year-old. Theoretically, the older you can look, the better you will do. Next season I encourage contestants to dress as a 2500 year-old Egyptian mummy.

The Cry Factor


Andy has a tearful breakdown during his audition, leading to a hilarious auto-tuned viral vid that flushes any potential career he had down the toilet. I was reminded of this last night whilst watching Poor Johnny, particularly during the rough editing choice to replay his squeak-cry and chuck some slow-mo on it. I just hope nobody has the genius idea to autotune it. Johnny needs time to heal right now.

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