After 5 weeks of auditions, the journey to representing Malta at Eurovision has taken the X Factor Malta contestants to Bootcamp! Often seen as the hardest part of the competition, this is really where the numbers get whittled down. The judges confirm that 120 people made it through the audition rounds to get there but that by the end of it there will only be 12 people left per category meaning over half will be sent home!
The format takes a savage turn as whilst some second chances were given in the auditions, judge Alexandra Alden confirmed that it was now time to get tough. The first stage had all four categories assigned a song and then required the contestants to sing the song a cappella on stage in a row - with snap decisions made on whether they should advance to the next round.
The boys category took on Wiz Khalifa & Charlie Puth's emotional hit 'See You Again'. A difficult song to sing a cappella, in the first line up we saw Luke Chappell, Owen Leuellen, Aleandro Pace Tahir, Isaac Mercieca & Jasmar Cassar make it through to the next round. The good news was not shared by Jake Bartolo and Ryan Axisa who were both unfortunately sent home. The second row also saw audition favourites Aidan Cassar, Norbert Bondin, Mark Anthony Bartolo, Matthew Anthony and Claudio Zammit also all make it through.
Almost half of all those that made it through to Bootcamp were in the Girls category - which means that look ahead the cuts here will be absolutely brutal - and they all got their chance to shine with Lady Gaga's 'Million Reasons'. The standard was really impressive, with great (albeit short) performances Karin Duff, Kelly Moncado, Michela Pace, Nicole Frendo, Kaylie Magri, Danica Muscat & Mariah Mifsud which all secured their place in the next round. Unfortunately Jalisse Micallef was the only girl on this row to not make it through. The second row saw auditionee's Sarah Bonnici, Elishia Semaan and Miriana Conte get good news. Milena Bianco, Jade Vella, Gail Attard, Nicole Brincat, Nicole Borg, Enya Magri, Shauna Vassallo and Michela Galea were also amongst the other girls to make it through.
The Overs category got to sing Elton John's classic ballad 'Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me' which saw Petra Zammit, Janice Mangion, Anna Azzopardi, Anna Faniello, Kim Cortis, Chris Grech, Laura Bruno, Vanessa Lee Sultana and Ben Purplle all singing for their lives successfully. Unfortunately, Glenn Buhagiar who touched our hearts with his audition was unable to control his nerves and was sent home. Lyndsay Pace, Nazio Rotin, Dario Mifsud Bonnici, Janice DeBattista and Ryan Grech joined those going through.
Only a handful of groups made it to Bootcamp in the first place so with very little coverage, all groups we saw audition made it through singing the iconic 'My Girl' by The Temptations. Including Kayati, WER1, Gold and Clelis.
It was then time for the next round to commence. Dubbed 'The Wall of Songs', all remaining competitors had to - quite literally - run to a wall in a crazy first-come-first-served environment and grab the song off the wall that they would like to sing. Each performer would then be assigned to the same group of 4 as the others who chose it regardless of category. They will then each give a group performance where they will either get through or given a no and told to go to the holding room. There was mixed reactions, with Kelly Moncado celebrating with the very hunky host Ben Camille over her choice, whilst Nicole Frendo's group were able to give a perfect harmonized rendition of Christina Aguilera's 'Beautiful' within a few minutes of selecting the song. Elsewhere there were tears over choices and there was also drama when Lyndsay Pace was swapped out of her group last minute by the judges.
The first group up was comprised of James Mifsud, duo WER1, Cynthia Zaffarese & Jake Curti who all chose 'She Will Be Loved' by Maroon 5. When delivering the news, the panel did not beat around the bush. They outright told the singers it was not the best that they had heard and then announced that only footballer James Mifsud would be moving forward - the others sent to the holding room.
Next up was a group of young girls who performed Dua Lipa's 'Be The One' fantastically. Kelsey Ballente, Kelly Moncado, Miriana Conte and Junior Eurovision 2010 representative Nicole Azzopardi all sounded great in their performance, which had host Ben Camille clapping along from the side of the stage. Kelly showed us exactly why she is a fan favourite but all of the girls shone in their own way - Miriana's high notes were ace! In a crazy decision based off that performance, Nicole was not chosen to join the others in the next round with the reason cited as being that they were not sure she was as strong at the rest of the girls category however the other three will all be singing again in the next round!
Group three performed big belter 'Bang Bang' and it was definitely a mixed bag. It is by no means an easy song to sing so was quite the challenge for the four girls. The group - composed of Elishia Semaan, Nicole Hammett, Kayley Cuschieri and Kaylie Magri - definitely gave it their best and quite a lot of the big notes were hit. However it is very difficult for that song not to just be screamed and Kaylie Magri stood out ahead of the others, showing she had a unique tone to her belting, was the only one chosen to advance straight to the next round. We feel Elishia was quite robbed with this as whilst Kaylie stood out above the rest, she definitely served up a fierce performance and her glory notes were effortlessly perfect. It will be interesting to see what happens in the holding room as both Elishia & Nicole stood out in their auditions - with the latter being somebody we had pegged as a possible winner.
The next group to perform was the group singing Ellie Goulding's 'Burn' which was caught up in the rehearsal drama when judge Howard advised Lyndsay Pace to swap groups the night before. Lyndsay was joined by standout auditionee Isaac Mercieca as well as Raquel Seguna and Charisse Azzopardi. Whilst you cannot deny the performance had its issues, given the circumstances the decision for all four to be sent to the holding room definitely came as a shock as Isaac in particular sounded great and Lyndsay also did well with the song.
Group five were singing 'Human' by Rag'n'Bone Man and featured hero of the hour Danica Muscat - who selflessly swapped herself firstly with Nicole Hammett to let her sing 'Bang Bang' and then once again swapped herself out of the previous group Lyndsay. Danica was joined by Miguel Bonello, Aleandro Pace Tahir and Matthew Anthony. Despite getting off to a rocky start, Danica pulled it back by the end and the rest gave great performances - securing all four a place in the next round.
A second Elton John song got a showing with group six's performance of 'Your Song'. Duo Kayati were the clear standouts in this performance and it was no surprise that they were the only one to get through in their group meaning that Clayton Bortelli, Mariah Mifsud Bonnici & Nadine Fenech all must leave to the holding room.
Group seven took on the legend herself - Madonna's 'Like A Prayer'. It's definitely a difficult song to sing but only vocal coach Rachel Tedesco Triccas was chosen to advance - leaving Mireille Rose Borg, Simaria Galea and Anthea Bezzina to go to the holding room. None were outright bad - and it just goes to show that the girls category in particular is exceptionally strong - but we felt Mireille Rose Borg definitely deserved to make it through.
The final group of the night sung Pink's 'Just Give Me A Reason' and in a night full of shock results and robberies - this topped it off. Admittedly the girls category is very strong, but no word short of a robbery can be used to describe Martha Micallef Attard not getting through after one of the most unique - in a good way - vocals of the night. She showed off enough of her interesting tone to keep us wanting more! Rachel Mamo, Josef Tabone and Kurt Anthony were also given a no with there being clear arguments to keep all three of them based off that performance. Kurt in particular showed a strong vocal and fans of MESC and Eurovision will be familiar that he had much more to offer!
Wow. What a show! The judges gave us a warning at the start and they weren't joking. They didn't hesitate to cull the numbers and can only imagine that when Bootcamp continues next Sunday evening that it will continue. We also get to find out what will happen in the holding room and whether any second chances will be offered out to some of the big names who were cut during the group performances. We will now spend the rest of the week recovering emotionally from that drama! If you haven't already, make sure to check out our '10 Unmissable Auditions':
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