Judges Houses kicked off this weekend on the X Factor Malta and we saw the top 3 girls and overs chosen by their respective judges Howard Keith Debono & Ray Mercieca. This means we now have half the live show line-up for the competition that will run throughout the January weekends before the winner is decided on January 26th 2019 - and the winner will earn the right to represent Malta in Tel Aviv at the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest. Who got through? Find out here...
First up was the girls category and first to sing was one of the favourite contestants to win - Michela Pace - who took on Adele's 'Turning Tables'. Once again her unique tone sounded absolutely incredible and got this stage of the competition started in the right way! She's cemented herself as one of our favourites and one of the show frontrunners with her beautiful tone and powerful vocals and that has not changed with this performance. Goosebumps!
Up next was Kelsey Bellante who has impressed over the season with her takes on modern pop sounds and her audition of 'What Is Love' by V Bozeman, made famous after its appearance on global smash show 'Empire'. Once again, Kelsey delivered a brave on-trend performance, giving us plenty of sass, some fantastic vocal runs and even a rap just like at six chair challenge! If anybody in the competition can bring us a 'Fuego' performance to Eurovision 2019 it may well be Kelsey!
One of the prettiest voices of the series has been Karin Duff who coincidentially is up next! Singing the Leona Lewis version of 'Run'. She has a quirky tone to her voice which could be compared to Ellie Goulding - almost squeaky at times but it sounds good and really works with the song choice. Karin brings something unique to the table and has an unconventional voice which helps her to stand out. We also learned that her father is a Geordie from Newcastle which I can relate to!
Another competition frontrunner performed next - Nicole Frendo. Nicole was singing one of my favourite songs - 'Strange Birds' by Birdy and gave a really powerful performance yet again. Her six chair challenge performance was probably the best in the category and the depth to her tone combined with the emotions she is so easily able to convey. She received the most positive reaction from Howard after her performance and to be honest we cannot imagine the live shows without her! Brilliant performance - standing ovation from us.
Danica Muscat was fifth to perform and was singing Elton John's 'Your Song'. She had a rough ride in Bootcamp and six chair challenge - being part of several group changes AND having to take part in a sing-off for her seat. She survived all of that and has found herself at Judges Houses where she once again performed well! She gave it her all however the judges noted that it was always going to be difficult singing that particular song with a guitar backing.
Jade Vella was up last for the girls - singing the massive 'Bang Bang' by Jessie J/Ariana Grande/Nicki Minaj. It's a huge song and Jade's voice was definitely up for the challenge. Jade then included Nicki's rap which is not an easy to rap to do but she didn't seem to have any problem with that! Jade has definitely stepped it up and also at the right time of the competition because this is when you need to come out and impress and it seems she definitely did that!
We do not envy Howard for making this decision but he has only three places in the live shows meaning three must be sent home... He chose Michela Pace, Nicole Frendo and Kelsey Bellante as his category meaning that Danica Muscat, Karin Duff and Jade Vella were sent home. It was tough especially between two of them however we feel that Howard did make the right decision and based off of the performances both tonight and that we've seen before, the right three made it through. Howard has a VERY strong category!!
Over to the Overs and Ray Mercieca's category...
First up is the soulful Anna Azzopardi who is taking on 'Tears Always Win' by Alicia Keys. Once again she launches into a soulful, almost gospel sound and approaches the song with a lot of bravado. She really sounds like Joss Stone which is a huge compliment! Unfortunately we aren't sure if Anna will be advancing this evening as the comments following her performance were not positive - saying that she performed it like a backing singer. Only time will tell...
Second to perform is MESC favourite Franklin Calleja who is taking on the massive 'Somebody to Love' by Queen. Wow! This is not an easy song to sing at all, it requires great breath control and huge range and Franklin really rose to the challenge and Ray seemed really pleased with the performance too. Of course we know Franklin from his appearances in MESC (and San Marino's 1in360 show earlier in 2018) so we knew from the start he would be impressive and he has lived up to our hype. Each performance has shown that he is an artist and we feel it may very well be his time to take to the Eurovision stage.
Anna Faniello is up next and bringing us her rendition of a powerful Italian ballad 'Questo piccolo grande amore' originally performed by Claudio Baglioni. Eurofans may recognise her as the mother to Maltese Eurovision representatives Fabrizio & Claudia Faniello however this time around it is Anna showing us where the two got their talent from. She's been one of the most impressive contestants since her first audition and this was no different. She poured the emotion in to the performance and it was solid.
Musician and songwriter Ben Purplle was next to perform and his performance of 'Iron Sky' by Paolo Nutini (which is an incredible song choice!!) was absolutely amazing. The raw emotion in his voice really got across and maybe I'm slightly biased because I love the song so much but I felt he really delivered and judge Ray seemed to agree. You can tell that Ben is a proper artist and that is something that is to us the 'X Factor'. He has the originality and artistry to succeed and we know if he goes through he'll be able to deliver week after week.
Vanessa Sultana was next and she chose to sing 'River Deep, Mountain High' by Tina Turner. She brought personality and sass but it was not her best performance. Vanessa has a super powerful voice and has given us some incredible moments before - most notably at six chair challenge when she got herself a standing ovation from the judges - but this was not up to the standard we've come to expect from her. It definitely was not bad, she has a lot of power in her voice and vocally it was solid however we agree with Ray when he says that she maybe is not ready yet - and how much she could grow in a year. If Vanessa doesn't make it through we really hope she comes back next year because she could definitely be a force to be reckoned with!
The last act to perform was Petra who again has chosen a song I absolutely adore - 'Make It Rain' by Ed Sheeran. It gave her the chance to once again show off her powerful, raw and husky vocals as she took on the dark and mysterious song. Petra stands out as a frontrunner in the competition and after this performance we have no doubt she will be in the live shows. She's delivered time and time again and we can't wait to see what she brings to the live show stage. Her MESC 2018 performance was one of our favourites so we know she's got the ability to perform. Potential winner?
"They all stepped up - but some stepped up much further" - Ray Mercieca ahead of the deliberation reflects our thoughts on the category. Ray made the decision to take through Ben Purplle, Petra and Franklin Calleja meaning that Anna Azzopardi, Vanessa Sultana and Anna Faniello were unfortunately sent home.
A night of tough decisions but we have our first six live show finalists!
Howard and the Girls...
and Ray and the Overs...
What do you make of the first six finalists? Let us know in the comments below or via our social media on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram & YouTube. Follow us for the latest Eurovision news, national selection updates and exclusive video content!