The Girls and Boys categories have already faced the fearsome Chair Challenge of the X Factor Malta. Now it’s time for the Groups category. Twelve acts sang in front of a lively arena audience and the judging panel, all hoping for one of the six seats that will guarantee them a spot at Judges Houses. While the category was dominated by former Malta Eurovision Song Contest acts, there was still room for newcomers.
The episode began with Anna Azzopardi, who was a semi-finalist in the Maltese national final in 2011 and 2012. She delivered “Son of a Preacher Man” and proved herself an experienced soul singer. The audiences were in love with her performance, as were the judges. Group judge Ray had no trouble in deciding to give Anna a seat.
Next was Franklin Calleja — a very familiar face to fans of MESC (or San Marino’s 1in360). He sang Sarah McLachlan’s classic ballad “Angel”. While the familiar song showed off Franklin’s vocal abilities, it felt like a very safe choice for him. The judges acknowledged his talents and Ray happily gave Franklin a seat.
Kim Cortis was the next Over. She had previously placed tenth at MESC 2016 with “Lighthouse”. Kim brought along her guitar and performed Bon Iver’s “Skinny Love”. She struggled with some of the higher notes and the judges were cautious with their comments. Judge Ray, however, gave Kim a seat.
Janice Debattista is yet another MESC veteran. She most recently competed in 2017, as the lead singer of the folk-pop group Crosswalk, who placed 12th with “So Simple”. Janice performed Pink’s “Dear Mr. President” and the judges praised her emotional connection with the lyrics. It was enough to get Janice a seat.
Back in 2009, Laura Bruno was a semi-finalist in the Maltese national final. It had been a rocky road for her to get to the Chair Challenge, but she gave everything with her performance of Emeli Sandé’s “Clown”. The judges had mixed comments, feeling her song choice was old-fashioned. But judge Ray gave her a shot.
Shockingly, Vanessa Sultana was the first Overs singer in the Chair Challenge to not have a MESC background. Fresh blood! Vanessa performed “I am Changing” from Dreamgirls. The judges rewarded Vanessa with a standing ovation, and judge Ray was happy to give her the sixth and final seat.
Next up was three-time MESC act Chris Grech, who placed fourth in 2015 with “Closed Doors”. The gravelly-voiced rocker took a different path at the Chair Challenge, singing Lucio Dalla’s “Caruso”. The Italian ballad showed off another side to him. Judge Ray recognised his talent and gave Chris a chair, swapping with Laura Bruno.
Janice Mangion made an impact at MESC 2017, where her Maltese-language ballad “Kewkba” was a fan favourite and placed second. She took to the stage with new honey blonde hair hair and delivered Demi Lovato’s ballad “Stone Cold”. Judge Ray felt Ms Mangion deserved a seat and swapped Janice M with Janice D.
Rachel Tedesco Triccas — another act with no MESC history — got emotional with Jorja Smith’s jazz ballad “Goodbyes”. Rachel was moved by the lyrics of the song and gave a performance laden with emotion. The judges praised her emotional honesty, but judge Ray said he couldn’t justify swapping any of the other six.
Next up was Ben Purplle (aka Bernard Vella). Armed with his guitar, he performed Radiohead’s “Creep” and brought a rock edge to his performance. Judge Ray thought he deserved a chair, and organised a battle-of-the-rockers sing-off between Ben Purple and Chris Grech. Ben was the winner of the sing-off, sending Chris home.
Anna Faniello was next to take to the stage, and is rapidly becoming one of the most beloved acts on the series this year. Anna again delivered popera realness, with a performance of the opera classic “Nessun dorma”. She gave an emotional performance, cheered on by her Eurovision star children, Claudia Faniello and Fabrizio Faniello. There was no doubt that Anna deserved a seat, but unfortunately it meant that Kim Cortis had to give up hers.
Finally it was time for Petra — and by now it’s clear that the X Factor Malta leaves some of the most interesting acts until last. Petra performed INXS’s rock ballad “Never Tear Us Apart”. Her huge performance inspired judge Ray to declare, “Petra, you are the X Factor!”. Petra naturally won a chair, but it was Janice Mangion who gave up hers.
With with that, the six seats were finally filled. This means that Anna Azzopardi, Anna Faniello, Ben Purplle, Franklin Callejam, Petra and Vanessa Sultana will be going through to Judges Houses in coming weeks. There they’ll be battling it out for one of the few places in the live shows.
The X Factor Malta Chair Challenge round continues next Sunday, with the Groups category the last lot to face the six seats of fate.