Odds are, prior to last weekend, that you had ever heard of Natalia Kills or Willy Moon. Perhaps you are even breaking that abstinence with this very article. Unfortunately, now you will, and I say ‘unfortunately’ because – quite frankly – shit sticks, and it would be exceedingly surprising if either of the pair managed to salvage what is left of their music careers after their performance last weekend on New Zealand’s edition of The X Factor.
If you can, firstly, escape the horror of the thought of The X Factor affliction having rooted itself into the southern hemisphere, then take a second to watch the video below, whereby following a performance by contestant Joe Irvine, Kills and Moon offer their “constructive criticism”.
Done? As you can see, “constructive” was a stratospheric overstatement (if you’re not one for watching, I’ll describe more below – but seriously, to see it is surprisingly repellent). In fact, it is probably the meanest and most ill-conceived statement ever made on a televised singing competition. Not that I’ve watched them all…
On taking offence in the belief that the artistic integrity and intellectual property – aka. the stylistic image – of her husband had been compromised by Irvine’s decision to don a snazzy suit, Kills goes on to state that ‘as an artist who respects creative integrity and intellectual property, I am disgusted at how much you have copied my husband’ and ‘From the hair to the suit, do you not have any value or respect for originality?’.
But, that’s not the worst of it, right?
‘You’re a laughing stock! It’s cheesy, it’s disgusting […] I am embarrassed to be sitting here in your presence having to even dignify you with an answer of my opinion! You make me sick.’
Yes, real words spoken by a real judge on an increasingly irrelevant TV competition. It’s not over though, we’ve not heard from Willy Moon himself yet.
Spurred on by his wife, he states that ‘it’s like Norman Bates dressing up in his mother’s clothing. It’s just a little bit creepy and I feel like you’re gonna stitch someone’s skin to your face and then kill everyone in the audience’.
Bullying has no place in any situation or workplace, and is even more despicable when broadcast to millions waiting to lap up the next viral scandal. The loudness of the audience’s boos is most definitely reassuring – as is Joe Irvine’s disbelief in what he is hearing and with the admirable composure which he handles himself. It is one thing to say Lady Gaga is doing a ‘Madonna’ when she is rolling about in a conical bra, but another entirely when two similarly groomed men are sporting similarly fitting suits. It’s akin to stating that every female to don an LBD since the 1950s is a lemming; its partially true, but simply irrelevant. All men wear suits. When wanting to appear smart, the option for a man to wear something else is essentially non-existent. It is a classic look, just like the Little Black Dress, and everyone has one or two shoved into the back of their wardrobe. It is hardly an artistic statement.
Quite rightly, Irvine comments that Kills herself is hardly original when she currently looks like Cleopatra. Emerging out of the post-Gaga wave where it was both aspirational and cool for female pop stars to be more Madonna than Beyoncé, she has aped many a more original idol and cultural icon on her quest to become a pop-star, even co-writing for Madonna’s latest album, Rebel Heart. Taking influence from the past is by no means a bad thing – every artist feels compelled to look back to predecessors who, quite often, did it best – but it is all relative. Perhaps the reason the current musical landscape has no icons anymore is perhaps because it has all been done before. Every big artist of the now rarely shoots their arrow forwards, instead launching their boomerang into the past, whipping up a myriad of past influences along the way. In the case of Willy Moon – whose music is best described as retro-infused pop – and Natalia Kills – her own output akin to Lady Gaga – well, they are as guilty of being doppelgängers as the people they choose to criticise.
It is unfortunate and more than a bit ironic that, for perhaps the longevity of this week, half the world knows of Joe Irvine’s plight, but due to the viral video not including his performance, no one actually knows whether he can actually sing or not. Perhaps it is this that perfectly surmises the irrelevance of modern culture. Where is the longevity? Would we be able to look back in fifty years and resolutely proclaim the cultural monuments of the past decade? At the moment, it is questionable, when many artists want to be what has already been, and when others lack even that vision.