We've come a long way since the auditions now! Last week we found out the first six finalists for the debut season of 'X Factor Malta' (where the winner will represent Malta at the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest) - Michela Pace, Nicole Frendo & Kelsey Bellante for the girls and Franklin Calleja, Ben Purplle & Petra for the overs category. Tonight we'll find out which boys & which groups will be joining these six in the live shows!
First up... Maltese Eurovision star Ira Losco and her category - the boys! (And oh MY she is looking fierce!!)
Owen Leuellen is the first to perform for his spot in the live shows. He's rapped his way to both judges houses & our hearts as he's one of our personal favourites. The fact he's undiscovered is a massive shock because the young man can really rap well. Filled with originality, Owen chose to perform another original - this time called 'My Time'. Like Ira, it had us bopping and swaying along as he threw it all into the performance. No idea how this one will go - it sounded great as expected but fans of international versions of the X Factor may be familiar with niche acts like rappers getting cut ahead of the live shows because they wouldn't be able to rap every show. We'll have to wait and see!
Second to perform is Mark Anthony Bartolo singing the classic 'Tears In Heaven' by Eric Clapton. He was one of the big showstoppers at six chair challenge and he's back once again with his trusted guitar! The musician stuck to the melody to begin with and it sounded beautiful before mixing it up and throwing in some falsetto notes before the end. It poured with emotion and you could tell judge Ira was touched by the performance. It wasn't vocally perfect however there's room for flexibility when you're putting so much emotion in to a song. After his performance the judge and her aide (singer Joseph Calleja) discussed the vocal acrobatics that Mark Anthony was doing - will that go against him in the results?
Claudio Zammit is next! Every single song choice this guy does is PERFECT ('Way Down We Go', 'No Roots', etc.) and it's as if he just listens to songs I've been overplaying over the past years and this is no different. Ella Eyre's version of 'We Don't Have To Take Our Clothes Off' is brilliant for him and gave him a chance to connect and show off his unique tone. In the past he's looked very nervous on stage and the nerves seem to have disappeared because he looks a lot more confident here. Claudio is a bit of a wildcard ... he narrowly avoided being sent home after the group round of Bootcamp and I'm not sure if many would've seen him as a contender however with each performance he has shown us why he deserves to still be in the competition ... will he be able to go any further?
One of the category frontrunners Luke Chappell is on next and he's really impressed the judges in past performances. Tonight he's taking on 'All I Want' by Kodaline which he reminds me us before the performance is a super emotional song. Another with a very unique tone, this is the best we've seen Luke so far in the competition by far however there's still something about his performance that he needs to unlock. He has a lot of potential but always looks very nervous, scared and uncomfortable whilst performing. That being said - this is something that he can work with and confidence comes with performing more ... his vocal tone is very impressive, his vocal runs were great and there's no doubting that he got the emotion across. Is he ready for the live shows?
Singing Niall Horan's 'Slow Hands' is Aidan Cassar who must be one of the frontrunners in the whole competition. He oozes style, coolness and always gives a great performance. He mixes the song up and that's what we love about him - he really takes a song and takes it the extra mile. There's no doubting he has the voice, the range, the charisma and the confidence to be a star so we would be super shocked to not see him in the live shows. He is definitely a contender to be Malta's representative on the Eurovision stage in May!
The final performer in the Boys category is Norbert Bondin who has already made a stir in the UK after his appearance on 'All Together Now'! This time he's singing Calum Scott's beautiful ballad 'You Are The Reason'. Of the category he's probably the best vocalist - his voice is massive and this song gave him some beautiful notes - wow! He got an applause from Ira which can only be a good thing and that was a fantastic way to end the boys category. Similarly to Aidan, Norbert seems to already be there in regards to being able to confidently perform and would certainly be reliable across the live shows. We aren't ashamed either to admit that we may have had to wipe a little tear from our eyes by the time Norbert was done with that performance! Very well done.
It's deliberation time for Ira and the boys! The three boys Ira decided to take through to the live shows with her are:
Meaning unfortunately Mark Anthony Bartolo, Aidan Cassar and Claudio Zammit were all sent home ... could we see any of them back next year? We collectively cannot believe that Aidan was sent home!! What was Ira thinking!?
The final category is the groups with judge Alexandra Alden!
First up to perform is girl group Xtreme who we previously said were probably our favourite group and they're singing 'Greedy' by Ariana Grande. The four girls have amazing chemistry and that performance was literally standing ovation worthy - wow! They had fun, gave us perfect harmonies, bucket loads of sass and some awesome choreography on top. In our six chair challenge review, I compared them to Fifth Harmony (who were put together at Bootcamp on X Factor USA before going global) and the comparison is definitely still there. Such progress in such a small amount of time and it's a group consisting of four individual stars that come together really well. Absolutely fantastic!
Second up is another girl group, Prism! Slowing the pace down a little they have opted to sing 'You Don't Know' originally by Katelyn Tarver including a piano accompaniment played by a member of the group. Their harmonies were beautiful and gave us a surprisingly strong performance of the ballad. All of the girls were vocally solid and it was a very emotional performance. Special mention goes to Denise Mercieca who gave me goosebumps during her solo towards the end. That was a massive step up from their previous performances together and we can see how hard they have worked. Dark horses?
Duo Horizon were third to perform - taking on 'All Of Me' by John Legend (a beautiful song!). We're not sure about this one - as we mentioned in our six chair challenge review it's one of them that really holds up the group and that is Kurt Anthony ... why was he not taken forward as a soloist!? Great keyboard accompaniment and Matthew is clearly a skilled musician but vocally it just did not work this time around. Last time they brought the party and had us want to go out dancing and partying but this time it was more emotive and it just didn't work. Is this the end of the road for the duo?
The other duo is up next - Kayati - the only group left who actually auditioned at the start! Performing 'Toxic' by Britney Spears in a slowed down, acoustic manner gave them a chance to really show off the strength in their voices and they harmonise and perform so well together. There is a little bit of country twang in the performance and that really worked to their advantage. Another good performance - it's clear that the girls are well rehearsed!
Fifth to perform is 4th Line who are taking on the song they sung at the end of Bootcamp ... 'Don't Let Go' by En Vogue. They also sung another En Vogue song back at Six Chair Challenge so there seems to be a theme here! Once again they pack a punch with very powerful vocals and an attitude filled performance. Harmonies are strong, presence is good and they look like a group that have really come together. They have an edge over the other two girl groups because they seem a little more mature with their song choices and are more like a vocal group. There's definitely a market for that and the talent is clear!
Finally, boy band SYSTM12. The trio impressed us at six chair challenge with their cover of 'Youngblood' and their judges houses performance of 'Polaroid' by Liam Payne & Jonas Blue got off to a strong start. Another group that was put together at bootcamp and appear to have really come together well. Their song choices have been fresh, modern and fun and this is no different. The video cut to all the other groups having a good dance to this song and that is how we feel too! Alexandra's reaction didn't look totally thrilled by the performance which is odd because everybody else was having a lot of fun.
Results time... Alexandra chose to put the following three groups through:
which means that unfortunately we say goodbye to SYSTM12, Horizon and Prism. We do hope to see whats next - SYSTM12 and Prism in particular both gave strong performances and have a lot of potential. We also hope to see Kurt Anthony back as a soloist in the future because we feel he has what it takes to go all the way!
Which means we now have all 12 of our X Factor finalists...
Howard and the Girls:
Ira and the Boys:
Ray and the Overs:
and Alexandra and the Groups:
Who is your pick to win? Let us know in the comments below and also via our social media on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram & YouTube. Follow us on our social media for all the latest Eurovision news, national selection updates and exclusive video content!