This years Maltese National Selection process 'X Factor Malta' headed to Bootcamp last week where the judges came down harshly on our hopefuls. If you missed the episode, make sure to check out the overview article here but the main points you need to know is that there is a LOT of talent, a LOT of crazy decisions from the judges and a LOT of drama! Will your favourites make it to the infamous Six Chair Challenge or will they be cut from the competition!? Lets find out...
Last week we saw the first 8 group performances. For those unfamiliar with the set-up, the 'Wall of Songs' meant that all of the performers had to - quite literally - do a mad dash at a wall which had a bunch of songs stuck to it and rip off the song that they wanted to perform. Every person who pulled the same song would then have to perform in groups (of mostly four) to try and make it through to the next round.
The first group up were performing 'Somebody to Love' by Queen. It's quite clear that the girls category is ON FIRE and Raisa Marie Micallef, Martina Micallef, Karin Duff and Michela Pace reminded us of this straight from the start! In particular Karin and Michela were very impressive. In the chorus they were batting off each other incredibly well with some very powerful notes and them bam, Michela's glory notes at the end gave us goosebumps!
Group ten performed the legendary 'Get Back' by The Beatles and it was ... quite something! Janice Debattista, Owen Desira, Vanessa Sultana and Mikhail Attard definitely gave the performance everything and it was very energetic, passionate and unfortunately a little manic. Admittedly, the original is a bit similar in that it probably isn't the best song to sing as a group because instead of the opportunity to harmonize, it really only allows the singers to sing loudly over each other. Saved by their potential, Vanessa and Janice advanced to the next round whilst Owen and Mikhail unfortunately were given a no and asked to go to the holding room.
The eleventh group to perform were the group who chose Christina Aguilera's iconic 'Beautiful'. We were looking forward to this as from the small clip shown last week of them singing after choosing the song, it looked like we could be heading for something beautiful. In a group that should've been called 'Laura and the Nicoles', Nicole Brincat, Nicole Frendo, Laura Bruno and Nicole Falzon - who for the latter the show cruelly did not feature her name as she performed - have all given better performances in the past. Nobody was awful, but it didn't give anybody the opportunity to shine properly either. Nicole Frendo has a beautiful tone that showed, Nicole Falzon had an impressive Christina falsetto moment and both Nicole B and Laura showed off the power in their vocals. Having said that, only Nicole Brincat and Nicole Frendo made it through - with Laura and the other Nicole sent to the holding room.
Group number twelve offered us something different - a duo! Denise Mercieca and Sarah Bonnici sung Amy Winehouse's 'Valerie' and it was actually really impressive. From when the music kicked in and the hip swinging choreo started, you could tell that both girls were having fun with it and whilst neither had the best vocal of the night, it was really nice to just watch them both actually having fun instead of being crushed by the pressure! Both girls got through with judge Alexandra Alden maybe hinting at them becoming a duo in the future.
The thirteenth performance - of 'Stay' by Rihanna and Mikky Ekko - was another duet with singer/guitarists Kim Cortis and Mark Anthony Bartolo taking to the stage. In a competition which has a lot of belting, powerhouse vocalists and glory notes, it was a refreshing change to see the two of these singers instead opt for a softer, calmer performance. Whilst the judges confirmed it wasn't perfect - and there were definitely some lyrics thrown in I don't remember being in the original - both singers made it through and that was absolutely the right decision. They both add something different to the competition and we look forward to seeing what they bring next.
Group 14's 'Alive' by Sia perhaps gave us the most emotional moment of the night. Tears were flowing across Malta last night as Victoria Sciberras bravely took to the stage following the tragic news of her fathers passing just before Bootcamp started. Joined by Stefan Galea, Milena Bianco and Francesca Grima, this Sia song is probably one of the hardest recent singles to actually sing - with the chorus demanding a lot of long, high notes. Victoria channelled her emotion perfectly and the group - deservedly - won a standing ovation and even hugs from the judges. Her courage to be able to get up on stage and perform given the circumstances is admirably valiant and it was no surprise when she made it through. Unfortunately none of the others made it through which came as a shock because in particular Stefan and Milena showed strength too. Hopefully this isn't the end for them...
Unfortunately during competitions like this - it is inevitable that some get more screen time than others. As a result, we are left with groups 15 to 18 who were all montaged. Duo Clelis and the unnamed Claudio Zammit, Maya Xuereb and Kyle Cutajar were briefly shown singing 'Bloodstream' by Ed Sheeran however Clelis were the only act to go through. Marley Grech and Owen Leuellen (+ 2 others unnamed) were shown rapping to 'Airplanes' by B.o.B and Hayley Williams (which is a HUGE throwback to being like 16) with only Owen making it through. 'Memory' by Barbra Streisand/Andrew Lloyd Webber as operatically performed by Mandy Randon, Gabriella Portelli and Luana Mifsud. In perhaps the most cutting moment of the episode - Alexandra asked all three to step forward before mercilessly telling them that they are all out. The final montaged group saw Dario Mifsud Bonnici, controversial group Matthew and Friends and another duo get eliminated after performing Marvin Gaye's 'I Heard It Through The Grapevine' .... and breathe!
One of the strongest groups across both weeks has to be Luke Chappell, Aidan Cassar, Shauna Vassallo and girl group Gold who took on 'Can't Feel My Face' by The Weeknd. They were loving it on stage - the dancing was on point and especially all three of the soloists showed off great vocals and interesting tones. We didn't think Gold were bad either and were actually quite shocked when they didn't make it - some of the harmonies could've been tighter but most of the time it didn't sound too off! Without any question, Luke, Aidan and Shauna are all ones to watch and all showed that they were very comfortable on stage which is always a big plus. Hopefully the girls from Gold will come back stronger next year or consider maybe doing it solo as there is definitely potential there!
'A Thousand Years' by Christina Perri is another difficult song to sing due to how melodic it is and how easily it can become too slow. Franklin Calleja, Norbert Bondin, Aaliyah Mallia & Ryan Grech did what they could with the track but we think the judges made the right decision only putting through Franklin and Norbert who both had moments in the song that they shone individually. Aaliyah's audition in particular stood out as being somebody with a lot of potential so hopefully this is either not the end for her or she can come back and prove the judges wrong next year.
The final group performance of the evening came from Chris Grech, Ben Purplle, Petra Zammit and Gail Attard who definitely chose the right song for their vocals as they were definitely one of the standout groups. 'One' by U2 allowed both Chris and Ben to rock out and give us what we expect from them! Petra's husky vocals sounded great on the track and Gail in particular really managed to impress - where did she come from!? We have to admit with our tail between our legs that we don't remember Gail's audition but we'll definitely be going to rewatch back now because that performance was incredible! All four showed they have powerful voices and whilst they had sounded good when their voices came together, each had their individual moment to shine too and all left the stage as potential frontrunners in the competition.
And that marked the final performance meaning the judges now have to decide what they want to do with all the hopefuls who failed to make it through the competition. Firstly, a round of sing-offs per category which saw Laura Bruno, Isaac Mercieca, Michela Galea, Jade Vella and Claudio Zammit all re-enter the competition! Then the judges chucked a lifeline to some of the other contestants - offering them to form groups. With the exception of Nicole Hammett, they all accepted and we are very happy that it has brought some of those we felt were most robbed back in to the competition and merged them in to a super group - Martha Micallef Attard, Elishia Semaan, Lyndsay Pace and Nicole Azzopardi we are looking at you! More on these to come...
Each remaining contestant/group then had to return to the stage once more in a final bid to make it to Six Chair Challenge... First up ... the groups and it was the following groups that made it through!
Kayati kicked us off singing Ariana Grande's 'Love Me Harder' once again managing to impress with their harmonies, whilst fellow duo Clelis performed Meghan Trainor/John Legend duet 'Like I'm Going To Lose You' giving a cute performance. Recently formed girl group 4th Line was next to take to the stage - featuring Anthea Bezzini, Miriana Conte (who was shown getting through before?!), Nicole Falzon & Milena Blanco - gave a powerful rendition of En Vogue's 'Don't Let Go' which actually was really impressive considering they had only just been created!
Another new group came next - SYSTM 12 (Josef Tabone, Kyle Cutajar & Dario Mifsud Bonnici) performed Liam Payne/J Balvin bop 'Familiar' and the reggaeton vibes worked well - they had everyone including the judges dancing! Horizon is a new duo including Kurt Anthony, who also gave a well-harmonized cover of Beyonce's 'Runnin'' as well as operatic duo Lorelai. Girl group Prism (including Martina Micallef and Aaliyah Mallia) took on 'Mercy' by Duffy, Radiate (including Rachel Mamo and an ex-member of Gold) impressed with Jessie J's 'Flashlight' and boy band Sudden Crowd (Clayton Portelli, Ryan Grekk, Stefan Galea and Mikhail Attard) performed Andra Day's 'Rise Up' to secure their place at the six chair challenge. Finally the group of girls that definitely all deserved to make it through as soloists Xtreme (individual members mentioned above) performing a banging version of Beyonce's 'End of Time' to book a ticket to the next stage!
Over in the boys category, those that made it through to Six Chair Challenge were... Aleandro Pace Tahir kicked us off with an eccentric rendition of the Scissor Sisters, followed by rapper Owen Leuellen looked more confident that he had ever done before on stage as he aced his performance. Sing-off winner Isaac Mercieca emotionally performed 'Say Something', whilst triple threat Aidan Cassar performed a remixed medley of songs, with George Ezra's 'Shotgun' being featured. You can check out his full performance on the X Factor Malta YouTube channel. Another who sounded at his best was Norbert Bondin who passionate sung 'Sign of the Times'. Mark Anthony Bartolo, along with his trusty guitar, performed 'Titanium' and managed to hit some unbelievable high notes - shook!
Claudio Zammit has a very unique and soulful deep voice - which seemed perfect for Kaleo's 'Way Down We Go' whilst Miguel Bonello gave what was probably the best performance in his category with 'Say Something' ... he really left it all on the stage which saw tears in the audience and earned him a huge round of applause. James Mifsud kept up the run of good performances with John Legend's 'All Of Me', Matthew Anthony unleashed a side we hadn't seen of him yet by singing Jason Derulo's 'Talk Dirty' - managing to really put a show! Finally, Luke Chappell managed to yet again show off his awesome and unique vocal tone with 'Sweater Weather' - storming his way in to the next round.
The talent in the girls category is unbelievable - and 14 exceptionally talented young ladies will be performing at Six Chair Challenge next week. They are... Kelsey Bellante who mixed it up with a reggae version of 'Man Down', Raisa Marie Micallef who sounds classically trained, Michela Galea who brought the roof down with her soul, Victoria Sciberras who once again overcame her heartbreaking situation to bravely give it her all. Nicole Frendo once again managed to pull it out of the bag as 'Jealous' really complimented her vocals and vivacious redhead Karin Duff performed Pink's 'Try' to a great reaction from the judges especially Ira Losco.
Shauna Vassallo absolutely blew us away with her 'Feeling Good' cover - which also had host Ben Camille clapping along. We've said it from the start but Shauna is definitely one to watch - incredible voice!! Jade Vella's Jessie J performance showed sass, attitude and definite growth from her first audition whilst Nicole Brincat honoured Avicii with her version of 'Addicted To You'. Another with an amazing voice is Kaylie Magri, who sounded as great as always with 'Back to Black' and joining her is Gail Attard - who we're still shook by from her group performance - and audition favourite Kelly Moncado who gave a beautiful and passionate performance. Danica Muscat gave a soulful powerhouse performance of Aretha Franklin and rounding out the group was Eurovoxx's 'top audition' - Michela Pace - who once again impressed us with a flawless version of Brandi Carlile's 'The Story' which showed off both her tone and power.
Good luck to all of these girls left because the next round is not going to be easy for you at all!!
Finally - the Overs category! Twelve talented singers and musicians made it through. They are... singer/songwriter Kim Cortis, who's sweet performances have impressed throughout, pink-haired Janice Debattista, MESC fan favourites Janice Mangion - who we are glad to see again after not being shown in the groups round - and Franklin Calleja who's solo performance of 'Nothing Compares 2 U' reminded us exactly why we're a fan and made himself a contender again! Powerful soul singers Vanessa Sultana and Anna Azzopardi also both gave fantastic performances on the last day of bootcamp to net themselves a space in the next round!
Laura Bruno - the winner of the overs sing-off - gave a powerful performance of 'Don't Speak' whilst rocker Chris Grech also showed why he deserves his place in the competition with 'Skyfall'. Eurovision klaxon ... mother of Claudia & Fabrizio (and amazing singer in her own right!!) Anna Faniello got us all excited for Eurovision next year with her performance of Il Volo's 'Grande Amore' [Italy 2015]. Rachel Tedesco Triccas who oozed sass in her Carrie Underwood performance will also be joined by Ben Purplle who continued to impress - this time with an acoustic cover of 'Billie Jean' and soul singer Petra Zammit who's rendition of Amy Winehouse's 'Love Is A Loving Game' was both inspired and extraordinary.
There we have it ... a very action packed episode to round out the Bootcamp stage of the competition. Come back next Sunday evening where we get to endure the nailbiting drama of Six Chair Challenge - where our categories will be cut down to a measly six!