The X Factor- whether you’re a die-hard fan or a protesting hater, chances are you know what I’m talking about. For those of you living under a rock, here’s a bit about the show: Starting in September 2004 as a musical talent contest, the X Factor replaced the popular ‘Pop Idol’ in a bid to discover Britain’s untapped singing talent. The ‘brains’ behind the operation is Simon Cowell, notorious megalomaniac and entrepreneurial/publicity hungry mastermind. Hopefuls sing their hearts out at the audition stages in a bid to get through to the live shows and sing for your love/votes. The winner goes on to receive a million pound recording contract with Simon’s company and hopefully some sort of career.
Year after year controversy and debate rules the tabloids as the X Factor becomes scrutinised for it’s effect on British music. Many believe it’s slowly but surely destroying the industry….but just as many believe it is fortifying it.
Lets look at the positives… first things first- this is a TV show. It is Saturday night entertainment, (a fact that appears lost on some people). It has unearthed a couple of genuine talents (*waits for people to throw things*)…and it does make for addictive viewing. The first series generated an average of 7.4 million viewers and the latest saw 14.13 million with a record breaking 19.4 million watching the final, surely Simon’s onto something? Yes it is contrived and artificial and yes the sob stories have become tedious- but many viewers persevere past this and hold onto the brilliant singing voices that are on occasion unveiled. And 19 million people can’t be wrong….erm…can they?
Winners of the X Factor have found varying degrees of success, from Steve Brookstein who disappeared without a trace, to Leona Lewis who has become an international sensation. After the hype of the show dies down, after the notorious Christmas number one, it’s the winners that proceed to release decent material that are the true ‘winners’ of this show. It’s one thing to win a TV contest, and quite another to forge a career out of it.
So those are the arguments for… how about against? Ever since the show first aired thousands of music fans have risen in protest against the show and everything it stands for. The over commercialisation and artificial quality is the main offender. Predictive and repetitive templates are another- week in, week out the same story line takes place- sob story followed by amazing vocal, over confidence followed by humorous humiliation. It’s a tried and tested formula. The ‘freak show’ nature of the show has become a growing issue over the years, as more and more wannabe contestants are ridiculed for our entertainment. And this is even before we look at the media’s hate campaign against certain contestants, (Katie Waissel…Wagner….Cher Lloyd…need I say more?), this year has been rife with controversy. Thousands of dedicated viewers boycotted the show after the likes of Wagner remained in the competition while talented acts got sent home. Keeping contestants in for their ‘personality’ has become an issue- Katie Waissel consistently found herself in the bottom two, but was saved week after week by the judges, who knew with her irritating persona was making for good TV. Even this years winner, Matt Cardle has spoken out about this issue…
Described by some as ‘Jeremy Kyle with a backing track’, it’s safe to say that many hate the way the show portrays British culture. With protesting Facebook groups determined to knock winners off the Christmas number one spot and hate campaigns continuing on even after the show has finished, it’s safe to say there are a hell of a lot of haters out there.
The burning question after all of this debate has to be this: has/will the show truly change the face of British music? Is it a genuine threat to our beloved industry? I think I’ll let Simon Neil, (front man of Biffy Clyro), answer this question. As many of you will already know, his band have come under attack this year as Matt Cardle ,(this years winner), released a cover of one of the bands songs….
“It’s always been Saturday night light entertainment. It’s for the kind of people who buy Robbie Williams calendars. I don’t think it’s a threat to ‘real’ music at all. It’s just entertainment. Simon Cowell isn’t the devil. He just wants to make a s*** load of money.” (Speaking to NME).
Personally, I don’t think I could put it better myself.