The second season of X Factor New Zealand has seen its fair share of drama, most notably the expulsion of husband and wife judges Natalia ‘Verbalicious’ Kills and Willy Moon after an on-air tirade at one of the show’s contestants. Quickly drafted in to take their places on the panel alongside Season 1 stalwarts Stan Walker and Mel Blatt were I Am Giant drummer Shelton Woolright and X Factor Australia judge and Rogue Trader Natalie Bassingthwaite who, in just ten weeks, have established themselves as popular additions – neither afraid to share constructive criticism or fight the corner for their adopted acts.
But tonight is all about the last three contestants standing, and viewers will see either Nyssa Collins, Beau Monga or Brendon Thomas & The Vibes walk away with the title of reigning X Factor New Zealand champion. Having spent the past ten years or so watching the increasingly repetitive UK version, the talent, songs and cultural diversity on display here in Aotearoa has been a refreshing change.
[Update – Congrats to Beau who took home the crown – download his winner’s single King and Queen from iTunes here]
Below are six of my favourite performances from six of my favourite finalists.
6. Finlay Robertson – Somebody That I Used To Know
Sure, Gotye’s massive 2011 duet with Kimbra isn’t going to be on anybody’s ‘must-listen to’ list for a while yet but, thanks to a beautiful, strings and percussion-driven arrangement and a winning vocal performance from Finlay Robertson, the track was given fresh life in week four.
5. Brendon Thomas & The Vibes – Bathe In The River
A psychedelic, rock trio with a whole lot of hair, Brendon Thomas & The Vibes have been constantly referred to as one of the first ‘real’ bands to be in with a shot to win the title of X Factor winners. That said, they’re exactly the kind of band who would do better without the Sony handcuffs but their performance of Hollie Smith’s Bathe In The River was an undeniably towering celebration of both their musicianship and vocal talents.
4. Mae Valley – Landslide
The pain of going out in week six could only be eased by knowing that you’ve gone out on your best performance, and wildcard country duo Mae Valley, formed shortly before the judge’s houses stage, did just that after a first class performance of Fleetwood Mac’s Landslide. Despite having only been a group for a matter of weeks, the pair’s tight harmonies and crystal vocals made their mid-series exit one of the biggest surprises of the season.
The only finalist not to have appeared in the bottom two throughout the live shows, Beau has to be the favourite to win tonight’s final. Having proven his worth as a beatboxer, singer, dancer and talented guitarist over the past nine weeks, last night he showed a different side to his talents, by picking up a ukulele, performing a rendition of poly-classic Ruketekete Te Mamae and getting his mentor Natalie up on stage to dance along. One of the biggest audience reactions of the series ensued.
2. Nyssa Collins – Don’t Dream It’s Over
Stan Walker chose a Crowded House classic for Nyssa’s final live performance, and the South Auckland singer won over the crowd with an effortlessly soulful half-Samoan rendition of the 1986 favourite whilst turning in a beautiful Islands-influenced performance from the audience stands.
Whilst he may have lost some momentum in the weeks before he found himself finishing in fourth place, there’s no questioning that Stevie Tonks’ performance of Gnarls Barkley’s Crazy in One Hit Wonder week was one of the finest performances to have been screened in the franchise. Dark, mesmerising and unique, it set a benchmark that even Tonks struggled to match in later weeks.
Unfortunately, it’s obviously not on YouTube so you’ll have to make do with his still rather impressive take on Ed Sheeran’s Give Me Love.