Natalia Kills, Willy Moon & The Madness of Their 'X Factor' New Zealand Rant
The two judges were fired after going on the most confusing tirade of 2015.
Have you seen this video? If not, stop reading and watch it immediately:
Welcome back! Okay, let's talk about the insanity that you just witnessed.
The show is one of the many international versions of The X Factor, now in its second season in New Zealand. It's the first season with Natalia Kills and Willy Moon, a husband-wife duo of aspiring pop artists, joining singer-songwriter (and former member of All Saints!) Melanie Blatt and former Australian Idol winner Stan Walker on the judges panel. First, some background: Kills is a British pop artist/model/designer who has worked with producers like Jeff Bhasker and Emile Haynie, recorded with Will.i.am and LMFAO and co-wrote the song "Holy Water" on Madonna's new album, Rebel Heart. Kills is a respected songwriter that has some impressive collaborations on her resumé, although she has yet to chart a single of her own on the Hot 100 chart.
Meanwhile, Moon's career has included a minor hit: the New Zealand native enjoyed a breakout moment in 2012 with the single "Yeah Yeah," which was used in an Apple iPod television commercial -- still a dream synch for a new artist. "I knew it was something that would, in a way, change my life," Moon told Billboard in early 2013 of the Apple synch, which helped push "Yeah Yeah" to No. 26 on the U.K. singles chart and No. 10 on the Alternative Digital Songs chart. Two years later, Moon has yet to capitalize on the buzz of that single -- his debut album, Here's Willy Moon, has sold 5,000 copies in the U.S. since its 2013 release according to Nielsen Music, and no music has been formally release since then.
Willy Moon also likes to wear suit and ties, and his hair slicked back. Apparently, he is the only one on this green earth allowed to do so.
The video clip above shows Kills' reaction to X Factor contestant Joe Irvine's performance of "Cry Me a River" during a live taping on Saturday night (Mar. 14), during which he wore… a suit and tie, and his hair slicked back. The look, which Kills interpreted as a direct photocopy of her husband's signature style, made her lose it: "You're a laughing stock. It's cheesy. It's disgusting. I personally found it absolutely artistically atrocious. I am embarrassed to be sitting here in your presence having to even dignify you with an answer of my opinion."
Moon then chimed in, and was even meaner! "I mean, it's like Norman Bates dressing up in his mother's clothing," said Moon. "It's just a little bit creepy and I feel like you're going to stitch someone's skin to your face and then kill everyone in the audience." Did he just liken a reality show contestant to the Texas Chainsaw Massacre maniac for copying his outfit? "Yeah, yeah," as Willy Moon himself might say.
Kills and Moon were fired for the tirade less than 24 hours after the taping, following the video of their critiques going viral and an online petition in which thousands called for their ousting. "We no longer have confidence that Kills and Moon are the right people to perform the role of The X Factor judges, and they will leave the show, effective immediately," said Mark Weldon, the CEO of Mediaworks, which owns New Zealand's TV3.
The swift move to get Kills and Moon out of the judges panel and condemn their bullying should be applauded. But in the aftermath of this mind-boggling story, one must ask: why did they choose to bully poor Joe Irvine (who admirably withstood the haranguing) in the first place?
"I'm just going to state the obvious: we have a doppelgänger in our midst," Kills began her rant. "As an artist who respects creative integrity and intellectual property, I am disgusted at how much you have copied my husband." Again, Irvine copied her husband by… wearing a certain outfit and hairstyle? As most humans know, wearing a suit and tie is a common thing for men to do, especially when appearing on popular television shows. Also, sometimes guys wear their hair slicked back! Has Jon Hamm been copying Willy Moon for years? What about Leonardo DiCaprio -- is The Wolf of Wall Street secretly a three-hour homage to the greatness of Willy Moon?
Why would Kills and Moon assume that Irvine is trying to copy Moon's look, and feel so absolutely secure in that assumption that they could punish this young singer in such an embarrassing manner? Was there ever any doubt that, hey, maybe this guy who performed a Justin Timberlake song on the X Factor might not worship at the altar of Moon? If anything, Irvine might just be a huge JT fan and decided to get his "Suit and Tie" on -- it's certainly more feasible than being a creepy mega-fan of an artist who has never cracked the New Zealand Digital Songs chart in his career.
For argument's sake, say Irvine really was trying to look like Moon, and copied the New Zealand artist's signature look for the performance. Isn't that sort of… flattering? If Irvine wanted to pay homage to an X Factor judge by kinda-sorta looking like him during one performance, I can't imagine that decision would equate him to a serial killer (Moon's conclusion) or a "laughingstock" (Kills' word). Maybe he's just a fan of Moon's music, and wanted to pay respect to him. One time in elementary school, I dressed up like my father, a lawyer, for career day -- I wore a suit and carried a briefcase into class. Somehow, I didn't stitch someone else's skin to my face that day!
The absolute craziest thing at the core of this molten ball of crazy: this ordeal happened on The X Factor, which is a show based around performing cover songs as opposed to original material. When Kills asked Irvine, "Do you not have any value or respect for originality?," she literally could have asked any of the other contestants on the show the same thing -- sure, they were wearing their own clothes, but they were singing other artists' songs! The entire idea of a show like The X Factor is to locate musical talent through the prism of classic artistry. Performing another artist's song and evoking their vocal runs are totally acceptable practices on the show -- but dressing similarly to another artist turns you into Norman Bates? How can that switch be flipped so irrevocably by a suit and slicked-back hair combo?
A lot of these questions are going unanswered for now -- Kills and Moon have not responded to Billboard's requests for comment, and Kills has only tweeted once, thanking her fans for "support and understanding my passionate opinions!" Before criticizing others for lack of artistic integrity, however, perhaps Kills and Moon need to look in the mirror. Moon is a self-admitted "throwback" artist who evokes 50's rock-and-roll and 60's soul music (he peppers his songs with James Brown-esque cries of "Hit me now!") without adding anything groundbreaking to modern music. His album include covers of Screamin' Jay Hawkins' "I Put a Spell on You" and Little Willie John's "I'm Shakin,'" yet Moon would probably bristle instantly if one were to accuse him of "hav[ing] no identity," as Kills did to Irvine. Meanwhile, Kills is an artist with a bevy of pop influences -- the forces of Lady Gaga, Rihanna and Lily Allen are strong within her -- and synthesizes those inspirations through her own style. Because, you know, that's what contemporary artists do. They look to the past to mold their future output, and usually don't get compared to classic film monsters while doing so.
On Sunday morning, hours after the X Factor debacle and hours before her dismissal from the show, Kills tweeted an Instagram picture of Uma Thurman, wearing her iconic black bob in a scene from Pulp Fiction. Kills, who wears the same retro hairdo as Thurman's character, tagged herself in the photo. If there is any justice in this world, Thurman will declare the Instagram photo "absolutely artistically atrocious." Or maybe she's too embarrassed to dignify Kills with her opinion.