Explosive vocals, magnetic personalities and young prodigies have dominated the last two seasons of X Factor Malta, so you’d expect that more singers on stage would only help multiply that special je ne sais quoi. However, no group has so far managed to make it all the way to the Live Final. That is, until this Saturday.
This year, Malta has a chance to select a group of five young and talented girls as its winners, and the whole thing has kicked off a national debate on whether the country can finally get that girl group we’ve been dreaming of ever since Times Three unleashed that 1999 banger.
This is the story of F.A.I.T.H., and the five girls who are steadily stealing the hearts of the nation.
All great X Factor stories start in the audition room.. but for some of these teenage sensations, it actually goes a couple of years further back.
Take, for example, Chanelle Zarb.
One of the group’s most confident members and frequently the one introducting everyone else in pre-show interviews, Chanelle is no stranger to the stage.
In 2016, in what’s slowly becoming a legendary edition of the Malta for Junior Eurovision Song Contest in Valletta, 13-year-old Chanelle tried her luck at representing our island in one of the biggest singing contests a teenager could ever hope of entering.
Alas, it was not to be, but it was always going to be a tough one considering all the now-recognisable names who had entered that year.
Trying to fill the shoes of previous Junior Eurovision winner Destiny Chukunyere was a long list of singers the country came to know and love in the years to follow… much of whom ended up on X Factor itself.
Chanelle Zarb competed against Justine Shorfid – a fellow 2020 finalist – and Miguel Bonello, a contestant in both seasons of X Factor Malta and the country’s representative at Sanremo Junior 2017.
Interestingly enough, that year saw another five-girl group, Fusion, place second… featuring none other than Nicole Frendo, who went on to place third in last year’s X Factor.
Performing Tori Kelly’s Hollow, young Chanelle proved she was a force to be reckoned with… following it up in 2017 with an impressive showcase at La Voix School of Performing Arts.
By the time it came to audition for X Factor Malta, 16-year-old Chanelle showed up all smiles and ready to impress the judges with her natural and raw talent… even performing an original song for bonus points.
“After a long day listening to a lot of people, this could be one of the first times that I heard something fresh,” Ira smiled, going to give her “the biggest Yes” she had given that day… along with thumbs up from the rest of the judges.
Meanwhile, Demi Galea’s onstage appearances extend even beyond her teenage years.
Demi is one of those talented singers who’s been pretty much everywherealready.
At just 10 years old, she competed in the second-youngest category at the 2015 Sanremo Junior Malta, facing off against (hold tight for even more recognisable names) Nicole Frendo, Thea Aquilina (who would go on to represent Malta in Italy two years later) and Christina Magrin… the winner of that notorious 2016 Malta for Junior Eurovision Song Contest that featured everyone.
But it was far from her only appearance; as the next half-a-decade progressed, fans of Malta’s young singing talent saw Demi grow up and mature on their TV sets, participating in a host of competitions and programmes along the way.
Later that same year, Demi performed at the Konkors Kanzunetta Indipendenza 2015 with the original song Ta’ Kuljum.
In 2016, still 11 years old, she went on the popular singing show The Entertainers for an impressive rendition of Alicia Keys’ If I Ain’t Got You… somehow, though, she was still just getting started.
Demi tried her luck at representing Malta at the Junior Eurovision Song Contest in 2017, the year that young Gianluca Cilia ended up flying to Georgia with the song Dawra Tond.
As she approached her mid-teens, Demi found herself singing more mature tracks alongside some big names.
One of the first of these cases was a return to The Entertainers in 2018, this time performing Etta James’ At Last alongside none other than Destiny Chukunyere.
Then, in March 2019, less than two months after Michela Pace was crowned the first winner of X Factor Malta, Demi Galea took part in L-Għanja tal-Poplu Żgħażagħ 2019… falling short to the top spot once again (and again to Gianluca Cilia).
Half a decade of singing competitions later, Demi felt it was finally time to take part in the X Factor Malta… bringing a powerful voice and natural poise to the audition room that quickly took the judges by surprise.
Her sweet demeanour and lively rendition of Avicii’s Addicted To You earned Demi four very important yeses that would see her go straight to Bootcamp.
And while Megan Caruana might not have as long a history of televised singing competitions as some of the other girls, she’s actually already made it to an X Factor Live Show… sort of.
For the sharp-eyed among you, you might recognise Megan from Luke Chappell’s performance of Hey There Delilah last season, where she posed as his girlfriend in series of Polaroids taken for the performance.
While she did confirm Ira’s memory of her “pretending to be Luke’s girlfriend”, Megan did go on to say that “the whole thing was complicated”, so there could actually be something in there!
But beyond lending her face to the X Factor finalist, Megan also has a singing past that has allowed her to cross paths with some established locals.
Back in 2016, Megan took part in Arthaus’s grand performance of Belliegħa at Valletta’s Teatru Rjal
Not letting her young age get in the way, Megan was part of a large team that worked day and night to bring to a life a great performance in the capital… with cast members including fellow X Factor 2 contestant Chrissy Warrington.
Just over a year ago, Megan had the awesome opportunity of performing alongsid former Red Electrick frontman Matt James Borg… and it was all thanks to her school.
“Such an inspirational and brilliant artist,” she gushed online, thanking Blata l-Bajda’s St. Joseph’s for the opportunity. Matt James definitely returned the compliment, telling the young singer had “a bright future ahead”.
Ready to show everyone what she’s got, Megan auditioned for X Factor Malta last summer.
The young singer was eventually given four yeses, with the small caveat of having to join a group.
You could see the wheels inside the judges’ heads turn as they matched the singers they had seen and loved throughout the days… and clearly, Megan had a grand plan waiting for her at Bootcamp.
With such gratitude, I thank my school for giving me the opportunity to sing with the excellent Matthew James Borg. Such an inspirational and brilliant artist! A massive well done to all the talented students and all those teachers who gave so much work for us ❣️St Joseph School Blata l-Bajda – Secondary School
Posted by Megan Caruana on Friday, November 30, 2018
Even for a group of super young, super talented girls who prove that age is just a number, you still can’t not fawn over 15-year-old “raw diamond” Ema Vella.
Sometimes, all you need is a great raw voice that you can control and unleash at will… and that’s exactly what Ema does.
Adopted from Ethiopia when she was just five months old, Ema might not have had the long years of experience as some of her fellow group members, but she definitely more than makes up for it with a voice you just have to hear to believe.
Back in November 2018, at the even more tender age of how-can-she-be-so-young-and-sing-like-that, Ema gave audiences in Berlin a taste of her vocal prowess at the Euro Pop Contest, where she eventually placed fourth in her category performing a cover of MESC hopeful Rhiannon’s massive Beyond Blue Horizons from that same year.
Representing Malta alongside Charlene Brincat, another singer from Gillian Attard’s La Voix School of Performing Arts, Ema went on to be declared one of two Grand Prix Winners at the Singing Festival Xmas Edition 2018, a festival which was organised by Talent Malta in collaboration with her academy.
Soon enough, summer 2019 arrived… and with it, the beginning of the rest of Ema Vella’s life.
From the very first couple of minutes that the shy and smiling 15-year-old stepped into the X Factor audition room, the judges were instantly sold. Then, she actually started singing.
With Ira – just about holding tears – dubbing her a “raw diamond”, Ema quickly became one of Malta’s youngest singing sensations.
Stunning all four judges didn’t seem to be enough though, with Ema’s powerful rendition of Etta James’ soul classic I’d Rather Go Blind steadily going viral nationwide.
Suddenly, the 15-year-old singer barely anyone had heard of before was being mentioned in the same breath as estbalished competition veterans like Destiny… so it was definitely a shock to many when it was announced that Ema would be joining a group for her X Factor adventure.
Chanelle, Demi, Megan and Ema were officially put together as a group after Bootcamp, and it soon became clear that the unnamed group was onto something.
Impressing the crowds and powering through the Six-Chair Challenge, the four-girl group which literally didn’t even have a name yet had the crowd on their feet with a sassy interpretation of Jessie J’s Who’s Laughing Now.
And without even thinking twice about it, even though all the six chairs had already been taken, group mentor Howard Keith quickly told them to take a seat and replace girl trio Sweet 6Teen.
By the end of the challenge, though, group mentor Howard Keith had one more person to add to the group… and she came straight from across the stage. Ladies and gentlemen, Maya Sesay.
Energetic, eager and just a little bit stressed from the get-go, half-Maltese, half-African Maya Seasy entered the competition as a promising 15-year-old powerhouse with a magnetic smile and personality.
“I used to be bullied because they saw me as different,” the young girl opened up in her first pre-audition interview. “Now, I feel like I can finally say that if someone doesn’t accept me, it’s their problem, not mine.” And nerves aside, that’s exactly the sass and confidence that she brought into the audition room.
With her strong voice allowing her to absolutely slay Aretha Franklin’s iconic Natural Woman, Maya got four yeses thanks to her full package.
“In your expression, in your eyes, I see a lot of love, I see the want for connection,” Alex said, with Howard going on to note how much eye contact the young contestant made with all the judges.
At Bootcamp, Maya was placed in the trio Sweet 6Teen, faltering at the Six Chair Challenge at the hands of a certain unnamed group featuring… well, literally everyone else in this article.
As the curtain came to a close on the show, however, Howard Keith provided another chance to Maya, in the form of a fifth place with the unnamed group. Thanfully, the young singer said yes… and so, F.A.I.T.H. was born.
From that point onwards, the five-piece grew from strength to strength, blasting through the Judges’ Houses and every single televised Live Show.
Last week, they switched things between their first and second song, going from a lively rendition of Candyman to an extremely emotional, quite frankly tearjerking performance of Runnin’. Beyoncé would definitely be proud.
This Saturday, F.A.I.T.H. will face Destiny, Kyle and Justine in a Grand Final that’s set to take over every conversation.
Judging by their perfect streak – they’ve been safe in every single phase that had eliminations – F.A.I.T.H. is set to be a formidable foe to the Junior Eurovision veteran, the sassy power-singer and the last gent standing with a voice of gold.
But who will take home the coveted top spot?