This week on Twitter, I read something about well-done sidebars on blogs being a big part of accessibility, and subsequently, probably, more readers. I took a look at mine, and, well, I have no idea whether or not it’s well done. It does its job, but I’ve never been one of those people who play by the Rules of Successful Blogging anyway – I don’t have a niche (hello, Star Trek rants one day, theatre festivals the next!), I don’t have ads, and I don’t worry too much if I don’t post three times a week… it’s my little corner of the Internet and I’ll write about kittens and robots if I want to! *Stomps* I did notice one interesting thing in my sidebar, however – my Tag Cloud. Moreso that the biggest (and subsequently ‘most talked about’) topic is MUSIC.
I’m having difficulting believing this. If this were a tag cloud of my life, then perhaps I’d be more inclined to see the truth in its prominence, but on my blog? I don’t know. I tried a weekly music feature earlier in the year where I tried to share songs and music videos that were beautifully written, incredibly compelling, visually stunning, or just plain rocking my world, and every time? Turned out to be Tumbleweed City. Maybe it comes from the fact that I don’t listen to a lot of mainstream stuff – stuff that might be more easily relatable across the blogosphere? Music is something I’m passionate about, and I’ll happily spend three hours on a Friday night scouring the Internet, reading reviews, and digging out hidden gems from across the globe, memorising the words, highlighting the brilliant ones and adding them to a mental collection of lyrical masterpieces to indulge in at full volume when nobody’s home. I’m passionate about music in the same way some people are passionate about cooking, or fashion, or exercise – but with those things, though they may not be big parts of my life, I can always appreciate someone’s enthusiasm for something they love wholeheartedly. Posting about music, however, has been discouraging – so it’s something I tend to stick to enjoying outside of the blog. Which is why it’s so surprising it makes up my biggest tag on the cloud.
But I digress. Today, I had to write about something music-related, because something music-related began another reign of supremity across the planet this weekend. On Saturday, 12 million people tuned in live to watch the first episode of the new season of The X Factor (stay with me!) -the show that brought the world Leona Lewis, divided the globe last Christmas with the war on Simon Cowell taking an old Rage Against the Machine track to the top in one of chart history’s most controversial moments, and has kept me, proud anti-mainstream indie kid that I am, firmly glued to my seat for the past six years.
I know I should be on the side of everyone who’s blaming things like X Factor and Glee for “ruining pop music”. I despise most modern pop music – pre-pubescent boys being voted sexiest “men” of 2010 (…), girls singing lines that are just plain embarrassing (really; don’t even get me started on Katy Perry), and songs about drunken promiscuity (as great as they are for nerdy video parodies) – am I the only one who’s feeling old here? But there’s been a tidal wave of backlash approaching for the last little while – and it seems to have come crashing down along with the commencement of the new series of X Factor. I doubt the return of Glee next month will escape unscathed: people en masse are revolting against the state of the charts, blaming shows like this for stealing the spotlight (and the public’s pocketbook) away from “real artists”, and actively destroying the music industry. But – as much as I should – I’m not sure where I stand.
In the UK, the X Factor has had significant effect on mass music purchasing, having had a total of 42 singles released by former contestants, sixteen of which have been number one hits. Worldwide, the music industry has undoubtedly been hit by the Glee effect: over seven million copies of cast single releases have been purchased digitally, and last year alone, the Glee cast had twenty-five singles chart on the Billboard Top 100 – the most by any artist since The Beatles almost half a decade ago. Manufactured television definitely has a stranglehold, but is that such a bad thing?
I adore hardworking, raw, real talent. I was perhaps more thrilled than the band themselves when Mumford and Sons became well-known globally, after having heard a demo single years ago and being unable to find a thing on them. I remember seeing them live and loving the genuine sense of gratitude bursting from the lead singer, who was shocked they’d sold out a venue before their album had even been released stateside. I love it when the little guys make it to the top. But I also love watching the little guys start on X Factor. Seeing them go from a small town, or a mundane nine to five job, and being given the platform to share an incredible talent with the world is fantastic. I watched last year as the boy who got bullied won the heart of a nation with an amazing natural voice. So they may have thousands in production, and pre-written songs built into their contracts when they win. It still showcases raw talent from the beginning, and gives them the opportunity to shine.
Like this eighteen-year old girl last Saturday night, doing something so original and different with perhaps one of my most loathed songs in the world that it sent shivers down my spine.
I think The X Factor can be a great platform for ordinary people to share amazing gifts with the rest of the world. It may have more money and more influence than the little guys, but then aren’t those little guys’ victories that much better when they beat the odds? How often in life are we given platforms upon which to share our gifts? I think the answer is a lot more often than you’d probably think. They may not be in front of thousands of people, on television, or across from a judging panel of celebrities, but platforms of opportunity come our way all the time. They may be in the form of a classroom, a customer service desk, or a white blank page, but I think we’re all given opportunities to shine. It’s whether or not we choose to take the risk and put it all out there that determines our success. I have a lot of respect for the people that have the guts to get up there and audition in front of millions, knowing full well how quick the masses can be to judge. But every once in a while, the decision to get out there and do it anyway can create something magical.
Maybe things like Glee and X Factor are destroying the music industry. Maybe they’re just giving regular artists more incentive to work harder. Whatever side you end up taking, you can’t argue with the power they have to cause controversy – as well as to unite (and divide) millions across the nation. And the fact that they make brilliantly compelling TV – even if only, perhaps, for all the wrong reasons.