The Random Thoughts of a Forty-Something. Films, Restaurants, Theatre, Concerts, World Events and (Mostly) Nice People.
Monday, December 14, 2009
My main objections to X-Factor are:
1. The obscene amounts of money demanded and paid to the judges, with the lion's share going obviously to Cowell himself, a man completely devoid of talent who is on record as saying his sole interest is making money, whilst the contestants aren't paid a penny.
2. The pretence that the show is some sort of talent search, actually contributing something to the music industry. The contestants (with rare exceptions such as last year's Diana Vickers and Ruth Lorenzo) are uniformly homogenised ballad singers moulded into little Whitneys and Bubles. Every spark of originality is extinguished.
3. The cynical manipulation of contestants for the sake of ratings. A perfect example is Cowell's deliberate jettisoning of the moderately talented Lucie Jones for short-term novelty act Jedward, of whom he had been completely critical and dismissive throughout. A few days later he was quoted as saying 'they don't realise how bad they are.' Is the show about talent or about ratings / money?
4. The short-termism of a product which has to rush it's contestants onto the road within weeks as they fade from the public memory like snow off a ditch. How many X-Factor contestants have genuinely built a solid career? Will Young, Leona Lewis certainly, Gareth Gates debateably and early days for Alexandra Burke and JLS.
It's easy to say 'if you don't like it, don't watch it' but as a lover of music old and new, it's impossible to escape, whether it's headline news or the ubiquitous Christmas number one. People need to stand up and point to the elephant in the room -- the X-Factor is all about Cowell's wallet, the judges' egos and advertising revenues. It makes a mockery of the music industry, creates virtually no artists with any longevity and glorifies blandness, whilst stifling originality and ridiculing countless aspiring singers in front of huge audiences.
The difference between X-Factor and shows such as 'Maria' and 'I'd Do Anything' is that the ALW shows feature people who actually are talented in their field -- the vast majority have had theatre experience and carve worthwhile stage careers for themselves once the shows have ended. This can't be said of X-Factor.
Cowell's strength is in providing a throwaway show perfectly tailored to the five minute celebrity culture and that's absolutely fine. Like shows such as Opportunity Knocks and New Faces back in the day, it's no-brainer Saturday night entertainment, but as with those shows, it doesn't provide anything that enhances the music industry in any way.
I'll quote Sting, who's views on this subject I completely agree with:
Rock star Sting has called the X Factor "televised karaoke" and said judges like Simon Cowell have "no recognisable talent apart from self-promotion".
The singer, 58, told London's Evening Standard that the Saturday night show was "a soap opera which has nothing to do with music".
He added: "I am sorry but none of those kids are going to go anywhere, and I say that sadly."
Sting said the singers who participate in the X Factor, created by Cowell in 2004, were "humiliated when they get sent off".
He added: "How appalling for a young person to feel that rejection. It is a soap opera which has nothing to do with music.
"In fact, it has put music back decades. Television is very cynical."
The singer, whose Fields Of Gold is a staple of talent show auditions, went on to say that X Factor encouraged contestants to "conform to stereotypes".
He added: "They are either Mariah Carey or Whitney Houston or Boyzone and are not encouraged to create any real unique signature or fingerprint.
"That cannot come from TV. The X Factor is a preposterous show and you have judges who have no recognisable talent apart from self-promotion, advising them what to wear and how to look. It is appalling.
"The real shop floor for musical talent is pubs and clubs, that is where the original work is.
"The music industry has been hugely important to England, bringing in millions. If anyone thinks the X Factor is going to do that, they are wrong."
A spokesperson for the X Factor declined to comment on Sting's interview, saying he was entitled to his opinion.