X marks the spot for the judges

16:00, Mar 02 2013
Before the bench: X-Factor New Zealand judges Daniel Bedingfield, Ruby Frost, Stan Walker and Melanie Blatt.

On Tuesday in Auckland, the cull began. Taxis were on standby to take failures straight back to the airport; audience cellphones were collected at the door lest someone tweet a spoiler.

Live audience auditions for The X Factor NZ finish tonight. More than 6000 people had previously tried out for the show in a 27-town pre-audition marathon, the biggest ever for a local reality television series.

This week, 12 four-hour sessions at Auckland's SkyCity theatre determined the talent that will go on to a music bootcamp. Twelve acts will go to the finals, to be screened on TV3 at a yet to be released date. Finalists will be mentored by one of four judges. One contestant will win a recording contract. Cue 5999-plus shattered dreams.

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"You're not rubbish," judge Melanie Blatt, co-founder of ‘90s girl group All Saints, told a hopeful. "But you're not amazing."

Also: "If you won this contract . . . I don't think it would be used properly." Blatt auditioned early for "mean judge". "That was a karoake version of that song . . . " She was right. There was a disproportionate number of young men with a guitar and Ed Sheeran lyrics. There was a man from a Roy Orbison tribute show. There was, literally, a singing policeman.

If Blatt was a little bit mean, Daniel Bedingfield, the ex-pat with multiple number one UK singles, was a little bit mad. During a break, he beat-boxed the Harlem Shake.


During filming, he asked one young woman if she could cook, and told a number of others that he was in love with them. But if he was auditioning for heart throb judge, that spot was gone. Stan Walker, star of Pukekohe potato-farming movie Mt Zion and the Kiwi who won Australian Idol used words like "bro" and "awesome" and talked about "hearing the freedom" in people's voices. Girls swooned. Boys sang his songs.

Who knows how it will end up, post-editing, because Walker also borrowed a line from the international mean judge Simon Cowell's script, "has anyone ever told you you could sing?" The crowd gulped. The contestant stood tall.

Why were they putting themselves through this, the kid from Ashburton, the mum-of- one from up north, the fruit and vege guys from a Taupo supermarket?

Variations on the same riff: music's my life. It was sort of my dream. I've been singing since I was three. And this, "I realised I wasn't good looking and took this up instead. You guys know how it is. Actually, you guys don't know how it is."

He was, possibly, referring to judge Ruby Frost, smart, articulate and candy-floss pink of hair judge. When she told a skinny young man from the North Shore he was funny, he fist pumped, his tambourine made a little noise and audience went "aww".

The X Factor is a global phenomena. It has launched the music careers of Leona Lewis, Reece Mastin and One Direction. On Tuesday, sitting in the first night's audience, the biggest shock was the depth of talent. These people could really, really sing.

Blatt softened and summed up the night, when she told one contestant: "I'm not sure where it's going to lead, but ...yes."

Sunday Star Times