The X Factor judges name their favourites
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