Recently, there’s been an outburst of attacks on smash UK reality show The X Factor. For those not in England, the show’s basically American Idol, but good. Four judges (including Mr. Cowell) each mentor a category (Girls, Boys, Groups, and Over 25s), pitted against each other for their act to win the competition. They go through initial auditions in front of thousands, bootcamp at the judges’ homes, and lives shows on an enormous stage with pyrotechnics, smoke and confetti cascades. Winner gets a hundred thousand pound recording contract, and total world domination (Leona Lewis, anyone?).
I’ve been watching faithfully for years now, and I suddenly feel like a minority in a war between the masses. There’s the pop-loving, Britney-singing X Factor faithfuls who’ll buy anything remotely connected to the show (and whose musical taste is determined solely by who’s currently at the top of the charts, and who they heard in the club last weekend). Then there’s the other half – the recent outburst of celebrities giving a voice to the music snobs (hey, I’m a music snob too, I’m allowed to say that), Sting for one claiming the show is a “soap opera which has nothing to do with music”, and Calvin Harris, who crashed another awful “Jedward” (two bratty little tone-deaf twin brothers who jump about the stage, rapping to Queen songs) performance, running across the stage with a pineapple clutched to his head.
His aim was to vocalise the growing concern of the state of the music industry. In recent years, we’ve seen incredible artists emerging out of the UK, but now, in Harris’s words, “it’s like a frightening stranglehold that Simon Cowell has got over the entire music chart in the UK at the moment.”
Growing up, the phenomenon of the Christmas number one was something exciting to look forward to. After the turkey, presents and mince pies were done with, the family would gather around the TV to watch Top of the Pops, and see who’d won the battle of the charts for the all important top spot. Since X Factor inception, the spot’s been a guaranteed win for whoever comes out of the show on top, or the annual charity single sung by the year’s top twelve contestants (always a cover, always a ballad, always so horribly Westlife).
I love the X Factor. I think it’s great entertainment, not to be taken too seriously, and a fun way of spending your Saturday night in the cold leadup to Christmas. I’m also passionate about British music, and hate to see publicity taken away from real, talented musicians struggling to make it in a world dominated by reality TV. I’m not going to stop watching the show. But I’m not going to stop supporting the little guys, either.