The journey to fame begins at the base of Auckland’s Sky Tower, where some of the 300 hopefuls who passed the initial selection process have gathered for live auditions for The X Factor NZ.
Wannabe rappers in basketball jerseys mingle with women in expensively daring dresses as they wait in line for their shot at fame.
The crowd bursts to life as show host Dominic Bowden walks through, picking out people to talk to while camera crews race around him.
“He is such a nice man,” yells a member of the crowd. Even Blues rugby players, who had been on a skywalk, stop to see what is going on.
As the contestants are moved on to a special waiting area, I hurry to be seated in the show theatre.
MC Guy Williams warms up the audience, telling jokes and reminding them to be as excited as possible. “Do not yell, ‘You suck’, that is too far. You’re lucky I can’t see you,” he jokingly tells the crowd, who yell it out once more.
“I tell you what, yell anything as long as it’s something.”
He steps aside and welcomes Dominic Bowden to the stage. The crowd explodes.
“How are we feeling Auckland I just wanted to come out and have a quick chat to you guys before we bring our judges out and get this thing underway. You’re a very important part of the process.
“We bring the audience into the audition process, so sort of like a fifth judge,” says Bowden, adding, “How about we get our judges out
“Please welcome your X Factor judges – Stan Walker, Ruby Frost, Daniel Bedingfield and Melanie Blatt.”
The first contestant ambles on to the stage. He’s dressed in a black shirt and black jeans.
He turns out to be Stan Bicknell, the old drummer from 48May. He looks confident and starts his first song – The Killers’ Mr Brightside.
Bedingfield chimes in “I like that song,” and with that the crowd is right behind him.
Bedingfield quickly asks to hear his second piece and as Walker breaks into an energetic rendition of the Police’s Message In A Bottle the crowd gets even louder.
Walker wraps up and Bedingfield, who moments ago was on the back of his chair trying to get the audience dancing and singing along, cheekily says, “Melanie has a nice, sweet, kind, thoughtful critique.”
“I hated everything!” says Blatt. “I can tell you have been doing music for a long time. Does it feel nice to be up front for a change I think you look good up front, yeah I like you.”
“It was awesome,” says Walker. “I think you are a package. You’re entertaining, you’re funny, you’re likeable. It is good to come home and listen to someone like you.”
“I really enjoyed that,” says Frist. “It looked like you were right at home on stage.”
“You have a lot more X Factor than voice,” says Bedingfield.
And with four ‘yeses’ Stan Bicknell advances to boot-camp, the next stop on the way to being X Factor winner.
But not all contestants find the going as easy. Bedingfield gets a chorus of boos from the crowd when he tells two Porirua hip-hop artists, “You rap like white boys from Henderson”.
“That was really entertaining,” says Frost, “but I don’t know if I want to listen to you as the next big recording artists. But I did enjoy it… I know the crowd loved it.”
“You rapped like dancers,” says Blatt. “I really liked you. I am kind of gutted that you weren’t better.”
Walker was impressed but with three nos the duo is out.
Backstage, the world is so different from the one seen by the audience and viewers – Bowden doing pre-performance interviews, giving the contestants support and confidence before they go on stage.
It’s a different story outside Sky City where a fleet of taxis wait to take tearful contestants to the airport. They have been given a star experience, but they just didn’t have that X Factor.
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