The debut of Duncan Greive’s weekly X Factor power rankings, which will drop Monday mornings and serve as a guide to where the show’s momentum lies.
Season two of X Factor New Zealand started recording months ago, and already feels like it’s been going for years. The show has already run for 14 hours, versus the 18 hours Idol ran for throughout its entire debut season. We’re exhausted, and it hasn’t even really begun. More pertinently, now we know our 12, are we sure they deserve all that time?
There’s an inbuilt bias toward hope with this show. The fancy production values, the crisp edits, mostly the ever-present shock of the new. New judges, new locations, new songs, but most of all, new contestants with new backstories. My poor brain can’t process all this information, let alone put it in any context.
All that seductive, bewildering preamble ends now. From here on in it’s these dozen (plus another wildcard thrown in), talking to those four judges, in Henderson and the Sky City Grand.
But for all my fears about the general quality, I’m stoked. I’m stoked because Joe Irvine will be weeping and wailing for another week at least. Because Natalia will be purring and clawing without warning or explanation right through. And because, amongst a very fleshy mid-section, there’s a clutch of singers I’m legitimately excited to watch throw down every Sunday for the next wee while.
Right the way through I’ll be power ranking whoever’s left in the race. These will go up every Monday at 10am, post-singing, pre-elimination, so I’ll be doused in gallons of shame every Monday evening when my predictions prove shatteringly wrong.
Some brief house-keeping: these rankings are a continuation of my NZNTM stuff from forever ago, and Matthew McAuley’s excellent work for The Corner last season (he’s now doing very smart analysis for The Wireless). They’re based on my own personal opinion about who I believe to have the most impressive combination of ability and momentum at any given time. So one bad week won’t drop you off a cliff, but two in a row will start to move drop you quick. I’ve also included faux-TAB odds as a way of showing who I think really has a shot.
FYI – this first set is even more of a crapshoot than normal, so consider it a preliminary ranking, a portrait of our pop warriors in their last free moment before they start going at it. Also: this is a complement to our other X Factor coverage – and our weekly podcast featuring Joseph Moore and Nic Sampson going at it.
- Beau Monga [Boys] – Have to say that Beau’s version of ‘Hit the Road Jack’ was both the best version of that song I’ve heard and also entirely terrible, on account of that song being essentially a children’s nursery rhyme – and not even one of the good nursery rhymes. I thought the dude had a gimmick that would get real old, real quick, and would fall hard at Boot Camp. I was so, so wrong. He can sing beautifully, is a humblebabe (deadly TV combo), wrote a very good ‘90s R&B original and had the courage to roll it out at Retreats which suggests he has a deep well of confidence to draw on. I cannot find a fault with Beau and can’t say that about a single other competitor.
The Spinoff’s TAB Odds: $2.10
- Steve Broad [Overs] – For: He is extremely good looking and when he sings he looks like he means it. That hammy ‘the teacher who wants to give the kids hope’-schtick is going to be irritating as hell (I’m already extremely tired of it) but is definitely a surefire votegetter. He’s something close to the total package and middle New Zealand loves its nice white men. Against: He’s already lost. Twice. I don’t know about you, but I feel like if you can’t take NZ Idol or Pop’s Ultimate Star when you’re in your prime then what chance do you have against a generation this thirsty when you’re pushing thirty?
The Spinoff’s TAB Odds: $2.30
- Nyssa [Girls] – She might have the biggest voice in the comp, and it seems like it’s barely been coached by comparison to some of the more tutored singers. That should translate to major improvements once she gets a little Stan time. Similarly her song choices have been patchy compared to, say, Broado. Figure out her sweet spot (prediction: ‘60s-’80s soul covers, much as the thought depresses me), let that shy, gap-toothed smile do its work on the nation and watch Nyssa go.
The Spinoff’s TAB Odds: $3.90
- Stevie Tonks [Boys] – Christened ‘hatbeard’ by Joseph Moore on our X Factor podcast thanks to his hat and beard, Tonks is the token ‘rock’ singer in the comp. During the retreat they made him sit and contemplate eternity next to a blazing brazier. Wearing a black beanie. In the middle of summer. They’re ladling on the ‘hobo chic’ sauce extra thick and I, for one, am developing a taste for it. The pitch is Tom Batchelor-lite, a less leary, more malleable version of Mr Jackie Thomas. I can see that going deep. I struggle to see it winning.
The Spinoff’s TAB Odds: $4.20
- Lili Bayliss [Girls] – As Eli pointed out in this week’s Group Think, Lili did a very bad cover of ‘Love Lockdown’ this week, but regains all the points she lost for covering Kanye, so call it a wash. Her extremely deep voice is easily the most disconcerting in the competition, particularly the way it gels with her otherwise tentative manner. But judges, perhaps rightly, tend to cling to the oddities for warmth and sustenance in a sea of bland competence. That could see her run deep.
The Spinoff’s TAB Odds: $5.65
- Fare Thee Well [Groups] – I was so high on Fare Thee Well after that killer Tom Petty cover they came out with. Back then they were enigmatic enough to sustain all kinds of outlandish thoughts, like the idea that they were New Zealand’s Haim. That dream died when they covered ‘Umbrella’ acoustically, showing great taste but poor judgement. Earnest, emotive folk covers of R&B songs might be the most noxious musical plague of this era, and while horrible people still seem to like them it’d be fun if these dudes got a little less obvious. Cover some doomy Sabbath song, or one of those defeated My Chem ballads. I don’t know. Just leave poor Terius out of this. All that being said – these dudes could 100% win this thing. They’ve been playing 10 hours a week at a Mac’s Bar in Rotorua for a year and sneaking off to weddings in between time. That is exactly how you get tight and comfortable and will help them no end in this comp.
The Spinoff’s TAB Odds. $7.10
- Nofo Lameko [Boys] – At Boot Camp Nofo did this heart-rending intro, talking frankly about being homeless, and the struggles he’s stared down in his life. It was incredibly moving. Then he ripped ‘Let’s Get it On’, bringing all the searing sexuality that resides in that song into a Vector audience which was in need of release after a bunch of sweet but very chaste pop covers. Every encounter with Nofo is presaged with some beatup about his attitude, but we’ve seen no real evidence of any issues there, and that might exist only to propel a redemption narrative as the show wears on. Still, they’ll play up every flicker of discontent and that might well prove a problem on the texts.
The Spinoff’s TAB Odds: $9.50
- Finlay Robertson [Girls] – Finlay is a talented kid who is unaccountably labouring under an X Factor version of M Night Shyamalan’s IMDB curse – every performance is tangibly worse than the one which preceded it. She seems to be trying to hit every ball for six, and losing control of her identity in the process. It’s a shame because she’s an engaging and extremely genuine kid with a built in audience courtesy of her near-miss last time. She could go far if she can somehow chill the f*** out and just start singing sweetly again.
The Spinoff TAB Odds: $12
- Joe Irvine [Overs] – I adore every atom of this shop assistant from Invers. His emotions flow in rivers down his cheeks, and he sings with hurricane force. This week alone he created more indelible memories than most contestants will across the whole series: the Jesus Christ pose in the fountain, singing to that poor, bewildered Thai merchant; the Bachelor-esque judge roses; the flailing run to the sea. And all those devastating tears. I have fear that middle New Zealand mightn’t understand him or his awesome fragility, but every week we have with him will be an absolute treasure.
The Spinoff’s TAB Odds: $18
- Sarah Spicer [Overs] – I eagerly bought the mother from Waihi’s hard-knock backstory, but her performances have been increasingly shrill. Mostly because she picks middling material to which she clearly has no emotional attachment. She was very sweet with Mel, how surprised and grateful she was to be making it through, which was affecting. And I remain cautiously hopeful that she might be able to turn it around, especially with Mel coaching and clearly invested. Just sing some bloody ‘Gunpowder and Lead’ and the rest will take care of itself.
The Spinoff’s TAB Odds: $25
- Stuss [Groups] – There were a number of young, perky little bands who auditioned this season. The best thing I can say about Stuss is that they were one of them. There are a few elements in their favour, namely that they’ll get a lot more support as far as sound and production goes than they’ve had prior to now, and having a whole week to work on a single song is disproportionately advantageous to bands versus singers. Plus they’re a gang of young cute boys and there are young people out there with voting machines in their pockets to whom that will mean a lot. But these guys have more work to do than anyone else in the comp, and only four days to do it.
The Spinoff’s TAB Odds: $80
- Brendon Thomas and the Vibes [Groups] – Don’t confuse the bottom ranking for me disliking The Vibes. They’re called The Vibes, for starters, which is hilarious. Brendan Thomas can sing fine, and his guys do pub rock Hendrix more than passably. Plus more than any other set of contestants they look like they smash beers and buds and the brown acid whenever they can. As the Batch showed us last time, that’s a recipe for great television and magnificently hungover performances. The only issue is that there is just no plausible market for this stuff, and it will freak out voters that they’re exclusively playing songs our nation’s teens have never heard and which were written nearly 50 years ago.
The Spinoff’s TAB Odds: $200