Established singers may shun X Factor despite pathway to Eurovision

Malta’s own X Factor has dismayed some for becoming the sole route towards the Eurovision Song Contest

Established singers may shun X Factor despite pathway to Eurovision
Established singers may shun X Factor despite pathway to Eurovision

The producers of X Factor Malta have been inundated by video submissions of singers – and aspiring singers – who believe they have what it takes to win the first ever edition of the popular television talent show.

Producers were surprised at the feedback by the public, following news that the show would be aired on TVM from October and that actor and model Ben Camille had been chosen as host of the popular show.

News of the winner of the show representing Malta at the Eurovision was met with delight by many but others expressed an equal dose of dismay, saying the TV show tends to focus solely on the artist.

And many have argued that this will lead to many of the contestants on the show being the “same old faces” that the Maltese audience is used to.

The show is open to everyone, with the judging process expected to start in the coming weeks with what is referred to as production auditions. During these auditions, applicants sing live before a team selected by the producers, tasked with whittling down the number of contestants that would make it through to the judges’ auditions, that would be recorded and televised as part of the show.

Ben Camille will host the first edition of X Factor Malta
Ben Camille will host the first edition of X Factor Malta

But composer Elton Zarb said that since original songs are not frequently showcased on X Factor – with many contestants choosing to cover popular songs – it would be very difficult for an up-and-coming singer or songwriter to showcase their individual style, unless they go down the risky path less travelled and choose to sing an original song when they appear before the judges.

“I love the X Factor as a format but I feel it should serve as a means for discovering talent and not as a platform to fund established artists,” he said.

Singer Amber, who represented Malta at the Eurovision in 2015, welcomed news of the X Factor coming to Malta, believing it might be a perfect tool to attract young artists to the music industry.

“Many artists aspire to become known by contesting in the Malta Eurovision Song Contest but the truth is that participating requires a considerable budget to produce and submit a song,” she said. “X Factor is now facilitating the way for anyone to take part in a large-scale competition.”

Amber says she will focus on her own music, which she has been pursuing full-time since representing Malta in the Eurovision in 2015
Amber says she will focus on her own music, which she has been pursuing full-time since representing Malta in the Eurovision in 2015

As to whether established artists should be allowed to take part, Amber was quite adamant.

“The music market in Malta is very tight and Maltese artists must compete, not only with each other, but with foreign singers and producers as well,” she said. “We don’t have a selection of opportunities available locally, so that is why an X Factor opportunity is a great deal for Malta.”

Kurt Calleja, who also represented Malta at the Eurovision in 2012, said that with the local market being already as limited as it is, an established artist had more to lose than a new face if they appeared on the show and did not deliver a good performance.

“Truth be told, it only takes one below standard performance to change the whole result,” he said. “However, for singers with incredible voices who never had strong original songs, perhaps due to lack of contacts or songwriting not being their forte, this presents a massive opportunity to showcase their skills, make a name for themselves and eventually work with relevant-to-the-industry songwriters who can write a song that is tailor-made for the winner’s voice.”

Local rap artist Hooli said X Factor could tap into undiscovered talent but he sounded a serious note of caution on the judging process.

“I think everyone has got the right to participate so the best singer is chosen,” he said. “If the producers intend to use televoting and local judges, I don’t think it will be fair for the newcomers since established artists already have their fans and would get their votes. I think it would be best if the producers secured foreign judges for the show.”

The judging panel for X Factor Malta has yet to be announced, although insiders say it will likely feature a popular singer, a successful composer and musician and possibly, a foreigner.

The prize is usually a recording contract, in addition to the publicity that appearance in the later stages of the show itself generates, not only for the winner but also for other highly-ranked contestants.

Hooli told MaltaToday he didn't intend to participating
Hooli told MaltaToday he didn't intend to participating

Why the Eurovision?

On 20 June, Public Broadcasting Services announced that the winner of X Factor Malta would go on to represent Malta at next year’s ESS in Israel as well as securing for themselves a record deal with Sony Music Italy.

The idea of mixing the X Factor with the Eurovision seems not to have gone down well with many local artists.

Singer Kurt Calleja said the producers should have left the X Factor as a contest in its own right with prizes such as record deals, studio time and scholarships, while keeping the MESC in its original and traditional format. “But I respect PBS for taking such a courageous, risky, decision.”

Amber agreed. “I am a bit confused about mixing these two events; for me they are different platforms,” she said. “The ESC is a ‘song contest’ while X Factor goes beyond just singing, it is about finding someone with a twist, it is more of a reality show in search for talent.”

And singer Ludwig Galea, who has also represented Malta at Eurovision, was equally blunt. “I have nothing against X Factor per se but I’m against the fact it’s amalgamated with the ESC,” he told MaltaToday.

Hooli, Amber, and Galea told MaltaToday said they don’t intend participating. “I will be thinking about participating the minute our national football team qualifies for the World Cup,” Galea said.

Calleja was a tad more tactful. “Whilst wishing all the very best to all contestants, newbies and established, after careful consideration my team and I have decided to skip this edition of X Factor.”

And as one established singer after another bows out of participating in the X Factor, the prospect of having a TV show that showcases new talent looms larger and becomes more palatable.