The X Factor: A to Z

By Paula Yeoman

Keen Kiwis chase their dreams in the first NZ-based series of The X Factor, writes Paula Yeoman

Judges Daniel Bedingfield , Ruby Frost , Stan Walker and Melanie Blatt on the set of 'X Factor NZ'. Photo / Supplied
Judges Daniel Bedingfield , Ruby Frost , Stan Walker and Melanie Blatt on the set of 'X Factor NZ'. Photo / Supplied

It's a global phenomenon that has spent years as one of the hottest brands in reality television. And, although it's taken nearly a decade, the first The X Factor New Zealand will be beamed across the nation tonight.

The brainchild of talent-spotting guru Simon Cowell, The X Factor has been broadcast in 35 countries since it was launched in the UK in 2004.

Cowell's still involved in the franchise, sitting on the judges' panels in the United States.

Here, he's handed over the responsibility to judges Stan Walker, Daniel Bedingfield, Mel Blatt and Ruby Frost, with Dominic Bowden at the helm as host.

We asked a few probing questions of the organisers to find out about the nuts, bolts and idiosyncracies of the show, contestants and judges, and bring you this A-Z collection of a television highlight of 2013.

A - Auditions: 48 hours of footage was shot at the auditions to make four 90-minute episodes.

There were 18 cameras capturing the action every day.

B - Blatt and Bedingfield: It's been some time since former All Saints star Melanie Blatt and New Zealand-born Daniel Bedingfield graced the pop charts but they both have number one hits under their belts. For Blatt, it's the tune Never Ever that she is most remembered for. Meanwhile, Bedingfield's Gotta Get Thru This was a game-changer in the British garage scene. He followed it up with the blistering chart-topping ballad If You're Not The One.

C - Cowell: The big question on everyone's lips is whether the man behind The X Factor will make a guest appearance in New Zealand. It's too early to say, but Simon Cowell does take a keen interest and watches tapes of all the shows around the world to make sure they stay true to the brand.

D - Drama!: From the early UK water-throwing bust up between judges Sharon Osbourne and Louis Walsh and Cowell's temper tantrums to backstage breakdowns and controversial evictions, the popular show has never been without its dramas. More recently it has been the mentors and the hosts who have dominated the headlines - the firing of American judges Nicole Scherzinger and Paula Abdul and the scathing criticism of Khloe Kardashian Odom in her million-dollar role as the co-host of last year's The X Factor USA.

E - Entries: Overall 6000 contestants entered The X Factor New Zealand - 3000 at pre-auditions across 27 locations. Only 300 acts have made it to the televised auditions. The oldest contestant to audition was 67, the youngest 14.

F - Frost: Ruby Frost is the Kiwi representative on the judges' panel and is no stranger to fighting it out for first place, having won MTV's nationwide 42Unheard competition in 2009. She admits to being nervous at how she'll be perceived when the show goes to air, but watch this space - the quietly spoken singer-songwriter from Auckland isn't the meek mentor you might expect her to be.

G - Groups: The competition is open to anyone over the age of 14, either solo performers or groups. Contestants who make it through are split into one of four categories - boys under 25, girls under 25, over 25s and groups. Each of the four judges is allocated a group to mentor.

H - Hometowns: The judges have winged in from far and wide - Blatt from Ibiza, Walker from Sydney and Bedingfield from Los Angeles. Frost is the only judged based in New Zealand. She calls Mt Eden in Auckland home. You can also expect to see contestants from a range of Kiwi towns, as small as Patea in Taranaki and Staveley in Canterbury.

I - International: The programme is an international phenomenon that has been broadcast in 35 countries, from Armenia, Bulgaria, Cyprus and Kosovo, to Israel, India, Kazakhstan and Russia.

J - Judges: The details of those who auditioned to be judges on the show is confidential. It's rumoured that a number of high-profile New Zealanders tried out for the show, including singers and radio hosts.

K - Keating: Expect a surprise visit from Australian judge and Irish heart-throb Ronan Keating on the first show tonight. And producers are promising plenty more highlights, including guest appearances from some major international acts.

L - Legend: John Legend's Ordinary People was the most popular song chosen by the boys under 25 category in the auditions. For the girls, it was Amy Winehouse's Valerie followed by David Guetta's Titanium. Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen was another favourite across all ages and genders.

M - Moro: All of the judges have a sweet tooth and during auditions they ploughed their way through bags of pineapple lumps and countless Moro bars.

N - Number One: Since the creation of the series, artists from The X Factor have sold more than 100 million records worldwide. Included in that is 250 number one chart-topping hits.

O - One Direction: The X Factor UK is responsible for introducing the world to boyband One Direction. The band didn't win the show, but instead came third behind winner Matt Cardle and runner-up Rebecca Ferguson. The show has also launched the careers of Olly Murs, Cher Lloyd, Leona Lewis, Jedward and Reece Mastin.

P - Production: It's one of the biggest television entertainment productions undertaken in New Zealand. A crew of 90 worked on the television auditions, which were filmed at SkyCity in Auckland.

R - Retreats: The finalists will be whisked away to locations across New Zealand for judges' retreats where they will learn who their mentors are. This is all top secret until everyone arrives at the location. To keep it this way, the crew and the mentor travel separately. They are booked into hotels and on call sheets as fake names from 80s movies so that no one knows who they are.

S - Sonenclar: Country crooner Tate Stevens pipped teen singing sensation Carly Rose Sonenclar to win The X Factor USA late last year. He has a new album out on Tuesday. 13-year-old Sonenclar returned to the seventh grade at her school in New York. But in a recent interview, she said she's been writing lots of songs and working on her debut album.

T - Talent: At the end of the day, it all comes down to talent and the judges say they were blown away by what they saw and heard during the auditions. "It's so much better than I thought it would be. I am genuinely excited about the talent and the diversity of the talent," says Ruby Frost.

U - United Kingdom: It's where it all began in 2004 but not without its controversy. Cowell infamously launched The X Factor show as a rival to Pop Idol, on which he'd been a judge. The creator of Pop Idol - music mogul and one-time Spice Girls manager, Simon Fuller - didn't take too kindly to the competition and sued Cowell. They finally reached an out-of-court settlement, which reportedly gave Fuller a 10 percent share in the The X Factor format.

V - Viewers: Because it has been shown in so many countries around the world, it's hard to put an accurate figure on viewership. But it is without doubt one of the most successful TV franchises. In the US alone, 7.5 million people tuned in for last year's third season premiere. Around 8 million watched the finale.

W - Walker: Stan the Man first came to our attention as the cheeky Maori contestant on Australian Idol in 2009, where funnily enough he wowed the judges at the audition with John Legend's Ordinary People. Stan Walker has continued to be an inspiration to a generation of budding Kiwi singers and has three critically acclaimed albums to his name.

X - The X factor: Ruby Frost says it's all about X factor - either you've got it or you haven't. "I was worried that it would be just another singing competition, but was obvious from the start that we were looking for people with that real spark. That's what excites me the most, I want to find an artist out of this that stands out compared to what we've already got in the industry."

Z - Zany moments: Who could forget Altiyan Childs, the forklift-driving Charles Manson look-a-like, winning the second season of The X Factor Australia? Or the cross-dressing Qua Trel strutting his stuff to Lady Gaga's Born This Way on last year's The X Factor USA? But Britney Spears wins hands down in delivering some of brand's most memorable zany moments, thanks to her hilarious facials and long, vacant stares.

The X Factor New Zealand premieres tonight on TV3 at 7pm. Catch the second episode tomorrow night at 7.30pm.

- Herald on Sunday

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