Monday, 25 October 2010

The X Factor Issue

On Saturday, I returned home from a hard-days’ networking (at Lorlett Hudson’s fabulous ‘One Hand Can’t Clap’ forum) and, rather misguidedly, it turned out, thought to myself “right, time to usher in the weekend with a bit of light entertainment/escapism in the form of X Factor”.

Two-and-a-bit hours later and I was incandescent with rage, somehow resisting the urge to throw my TV out the window, in a rock star type manner.

Apparently, we now live in a time where Zeppellin’s ‘Whole Lotta Love’ is a ‘guilty pleasure’ and it’s considered morally and socially acceptable for a contestant to perform it to millions accompanied by a karaoke style backing track, (with a bloke with a fake electric guitar miming to Jimmy Page’s solo). Is there nothing too sacred for Cowell’s empire to tarnish? Apparently not.

Naturally, I spent the next few hours listening to some more obscure tracks from Bowie’s back catalogue, which I was fairly certain X Factor wouldn’t take on, if only because, as one Twitterer aptly observed, the judges have “all the musical knowledge of a slightly stunned earwig”. Two large glasses of chardonnay and several Bowie tracks later, I was pleased to note I had achieved a positively Zen-like state of calmness.

Having established my emotional equilibrium, I got thinking about the Cher Lloyd issue.

Surprisingly, not one of the judges has yet thought to mention the blindingly obvious: i.e. her inability to sing. “I jooost looove watching yers” said Cheryl. Yes, but do we enjoy listening to her? X Factor is, we are reliably informed, after all a singing competition. That’s something it’s easy to forget, what with all the inexplicable fawning over Cher’s “stage presence”, dancing “skills” and ability to be “current”.

What message are we therefore giving the millions of young women who tune into this show every week? Simples:
1. It’s style that’s important, not substance.
2. Lack of talent is nothing when compared to the might of looking like Cheryl Cole and Amy Winehouse’s illegitimate lesbian love child.
3. Styling yourself like an urban Bratz doll is the quick way to get all the attention, adoration and wealth you crave.

By contrast, immensely talented vocalist Rebecca was told “I don’t like what you’re wearing”.

One day, I hope to be cool enough not to care about X Factor. However, the fact remains that, for now at least, it’s a hugely influential part of Cowell’s commercial empire and, as such, should acknowledge some sort of responsibility.

Some might argue, rather tediously, that being a “pop star” doesn’t necessitate top quality vocals, but is in fact about other things entirely. Whilst there is a smidgen of truth in this, that’s no reason to accept the state of affairs. Barry White and Stevie Wonder produced a lot of their own tracks. They composed the melodies, in addition to being able to knock out a lovely vocal. Cheryl Cole simply nicks her hooks off Kelis (the law dictates that I must state here: Allegedly).

Bring back the era of real rock and roll, sez I, where mad, attention seeking outfits and sex appeal were a bi-product of the music. Not only will it be huge step forward in the industry, it’ll contribute significantly and positively to the beauty debate.

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