Fi­nal ver­dict

The X Fac­tor judges name their favourites

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - TV Guide - - Front Page -

There’s a great dy­namic on the panel and we’re not afraid to say how we feel. There are no dag­gers back­stage

Megas­tar Kylie Minogue may be set to steal the show as spe­cial guest when The X Fac­tor draws to a close this week, but the men of X Fac­tor, judge and men­tors Ro­nan Keat­ing and Guy Se­bas­tian, are con­fi­dent they’ve seen ris­ing stars this sea­son.

The pair may come from dif­fer­ent sides of the tracks in their mu­si­cal ca­reers – Keat­ing shot to fame the old fash­ioned way in the UK with boy band Boy­zone in the 1990s, while Se­bas­tian carved his path win­ning the first Aus­tralian Idol in 2003 – but both share a mu­tual view that re­al­ity TV singing con­tests are a le­git­i­mate way to un­earth mu­si­cal tal­ent.

And given the show’s dom­i­nance of the rat­ings this sea­son, tele­vi­sion au­di­ences agree.

The for­mat has found a new lease of life in Aus­tralia – re­vived by Chan­nel Seven last year – and is go­ing from strength to strength again in 2011 to win its Mon­day and Tues­day night time slots.

Keat­ing and Se­bas­tian, who signed on as judges and men­tors last year and were joined this sea­son by “Scary Spice” Mel B and Natalie Bass­ingth­waighte, are not sur­prised at the show’s re­vival.

“It’s had a breath of fresh air and a new lease of life,” Keat­ing says.

“X Fac­tor has ex­ploded glob­ally – it’s mas­sive in the US and UK.

“It’s had eight years in the UK and 18 mil­lion watched the fi­nale over there last year.

“More peo­ple voted in X Fac­tor in the UK last year than in the pub­lic vote – the ac­tual govern­ment poll. That’s nuts. “That’s a jug­ger­naut.” Keat­ing at­tributes the lo­cal suc­cess to that in­flu­ence, to Aus­tralians get­ting to know the new men­tor­ing and judg­ing for­mat and to the sheer tal­ent on show.

“View­ers got to know it, like it and un­der­stand it, and that’s why it’s come back with all guns blaz­ing,” he says.

“The con­tes­tants also know what’s ex­pected of them.

“I watch the group per­for­mances of the whole lot of them on the Tues­day night shows and it shows through. Last year they were all un­com­fort­able, whereas they are em­brac­ing it this year.”

With the fi­nal three set to per­form to­mor­row night and on Tues­day night ahead of the fi­nal ver­dict, with a Sony record­ing con­tract go­ing to the win­ner, Keat­ing and Se­bas­tian say it’s not only the even­tual vic­tor who stands to make it big in the mu­sic in­dus­try.

“You don’t have to win this show to have a ca­reer. Ab­so­lutely not,” Keat­ing says. “In the UK sec­ond and third place some­times have even big­ger ca­reers than the win­ners.

“JLS are the big­gest boy band in the coun­try, and they came sec­ond in the UK two years ago.”

Of this year’s crop, Se­bas­tian – the men­tor who held onto his three charges in the Un­der 25s boys cat­e­gory the long­est – pre­dicts big things for young guns Reece Mastin, Johnny Ruffo and De­clan Sykes. Keat­ing agrees. “Reece is re­ally strong. He messed up late in the show, but re­cov­ered and he’s a great per­former,” he says.

“De­clan (who ex­ited the show al­most a fort­night ago) in a few years will be great – this sea­son he’s too young and he’s not ready yet.”

Of the groups he has men­tored, Keat­ing pre­dicts YMS “can do some good things with the right pro­duc­tion”.

Of his most en­dur­ing group, Three Wishez, Keat­ing says “there’s no act in Aus­tralia like them”.

On his mate Se­bas­tian’s per­for­mance in nur­tur­ing his three charges longer than any of the judges ( Mel B lost her three early in the show, and un­til a fort­night ago when he lost De­clan, Se­bas­tian’s trio re­mained in­tact) Keat­ing ad­mits the friendly ri­valry has some­times spilled into on-air clashes.

But any quar­rels among the judges are gen­er­ally for­got­ten once the show’s clos­ing cred­its roll.

“Guy’s had the best record in that his three stayed in the long­est,” Keat­ing says. “I don’t know if that makes him the best men­tor. I’m not say­ing he’s a bad men­tor, he’s great, but he also has a great cat­e­gory – that Un­der 25 boys is one of the strong­est.

“When you have peo­ple like Johnny and Reece in there, who young girls love, it’s kind of a no-brainer.

“Guy and I are very good pals, we worked to­gether last year.

“Mel’s an old pal; we’ve known each other 16, 17 years.

“There’s a great dy­namic on the panel and we’re not afraid to say how we feel. “There are no dag­gers back­stage. “You say it, you’re thick skinned, and you move on.” – Debbie Schipp

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