The X-Effect

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. 🙂

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46 comments

  1. agreed – the star trk clip is priceless!!!

    i am guilty of being sucked into things like x factor and glee. they’re very entertaining and i’d much rather have an x factor winner make it than some crappy r&b/rapper combo, at least they would’ve worked harder to get it.

    great post

    1. Thanks love. I think people forget that the singers themselves aren’t the ones out to exploit the public, it all happens behind closed doors anyway with every other artist in the charts!

  2. Isn’t it funny how so little of what we used to think of as “entertainment” we’re allowed to take as such?

    TV’s wonderful for serendipity. Apparently, so are blogs. I may just check out X Factor now 🙂

  3. I wholeheartedly agree with what you wrote… the only “criticism” I have that most of the TV shows are not real vocal competitions. It bothers me, because if you’re a good singer, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you get your chance of stardom on a show like that. I find the castings for these shows more than unprofessional. I understand that there are often thousands of contestants, but if you’re really looking for raw talent, there should be more to the “weeding out process” than what is given.

    1. That’s true – I know a few friends who made it onto Canadian Idol (which sucks, just for the record lol) and the audition process was crazy – I think they had to go through 3 or 4 auditions before they even got to the judges. But at the same time I guess it’s all about a mixture of finding the talent and maintaining an audience 🙂

  4. I can’t decide where I stand on all this stuff either, but mostly I just enjoy all sorts of music, I guess. Covers, parodies, cheesy lyrics and all (although yeah I’m TOTALLY not feelin’ Katy Perry). 😛 Also, that 18-year-old girl? Lovely! I am a fan, and especially fond of the giant flower in her hair.

    1. Wasn’t she wonderful? I wish the clip had showed her interview before singing – you know, that typical “why are you here,” etc. – and she just took a breath, and said “I want to be somebody.” Really different – one of the big reasons I fell in love with her 🙂

  5. What an interesting question. I’m not sure where I stand either, being a huge fan of Rage, personally, I think it’s important to remember that Rage has always been explicit in their belief that being signed allowed their message to get out to a far wider audience than it would have if they had stayed underground. I’m not sure what message artists like Katy Perry are trying to get across, but it has certainly disseminated their music in a somewhat similar way (i.e. music videos, publicity stunts, fashion influence etc.) I think regardless, it was my choice to buy a Rage album, and not to buy a Katy Perry album (and change the radio station every time she comes on). Only, I couldn’t last Christmas- because I ALREADY had them all. Which does make me wonder what point the Rage Against the X Factor were really trying to get across (Hmm… what band would make me seem the angriest?) It also begs the question of whether or not they totally understand what Rage is saying. They are definitely NOT saying, “Buy our album, that will make you look anti-commercial”. All that being said, I also bought myself a Paul Potts album as SOON as it came out for the exact reason that you were discussing above. When I’m down, I actually watch his very first audition, because who doesn’t like to see a little mild-mannered guy with crazy teeth make people get on their feet and cheer?? He’s no Luciano, but he’s a regular person who just wants to be heard; ergo, he’s more like me than Katy Perry, Luciano Pavarotti, or Zack de la Rocha.

    1. I absolutely abhor Katy Perry. As much as my heart lies with the indie scene, I’m all for pop music when it’s creative, artistic, or doing something otherwise unique and fun, and uniting the masses. Michael Jackson, Madonna, even the Spice Girls back in the day (goodness I sound old) and Lady Gaga today – I’m totally a fan because at the time, it’s something fresh and different and creative. There just seems to be an excess of “artists” that are churned out, wearing next to nothing, getting the WRONG message across, and making millions. So I’d much rather a TV contestant do well than one of those. That being said, I’d much rather one of the underexposed artists of musical genius get a bit of recognition every now and then, too.

      The Rage thing? I have to admit – I have never been a Rage fan! It was started by a husband and wife who wanted to “take music back from Simon Cowell” – it could’ve been any old song, it just so happened to be one of theirs – being anti-establishment and all. I felt bad for the winner that year though – he was a sweetie, but I remember him being interviewed when he came in second and he said since winning, he’d gone to all these war-torn countries and seen soldiers coming home and all this stuff, and it made you realise what’s important. Nice kid. 🙂

      1. Lady Gaga I love. I am so with you on that point. I was never a Spice Girl fan, HOWEVER, I loved Ginger Spice, and even bought the Geri Halliwell (Halliwel?) album. Maybe it was because she was the one nobody liked? Or was that Sporty Spice…? Anyway, anybody who is good enough to be friends with George Michael is good enough for me. He is just so cool.

  6. Wow. There’s so much here, I barely know where to begin.

    First, I love Walking on Sunshine. Call me sappy, but it’s just about the only upbeat positive song that I can really relate to. Most of the music I listen to is so depressing that sometimes a distinct gear shift is required.

    That being said, what that girl did was nothing short of fantastic. If I lived in a country where that show is broadcast, I’m sure the word “brilliant” would have erupted from my mouth with fervor.

    On the Tik Spock thing, I absolutely abhor Ke$ha, her music, her image, and her popularity, but I cannot deny that was one of the funniest and most creative parodies I’ve seen lately. Even so, I couldn’t watch the whole thing, because I felt the urge to stick forks in my ears coming on too strongly.

    More to your point, I think television has changed music far more drastically than anyone ever thought it could. The same is true with the Internet, and right now we’re still seeing the infancy of the latter (while the former is in its full swing). If you are an indie person, then chances are you are not a mainstream person. It’s not that the two don’t mix, but it’s like preferring mom&pop restaurants to chain ones — it’s not that Applebees doesn’t have great food, right? It’s just that I’d rather support local business and go where someone knows my name rather than a place that only has a happy hour for crappy “domestic” drafts that doesn’t include craft beers (even though, hilariously, they are domestic). Argh, tangent.

    Music is and always will be a personal thing. Perhaps, Emily, you have touched on the possibility of television making it somehow less personal, and that’s what people are so up-in-arms about. The problem with that is music is different things to different people, so while the enjoyment of music is universal, the definition of that enjoyment is purely (and rightfully) subjective.

    I apologize for the length of this comment, and sincerely hope that I made some sort of point.

  7. Everything you have on your sidebar is pretty much what I have on mine too and it’s definitely useful and comes in handy! I know for sure that music isn’t in my tag cloud. 😉

  8. Maybe it’s when you deviate from topical but still reveal something interesting about yourself that you can capture hearts & minds. To me, it doesn’t matter what the topic is so long as the person has something [interesting] to say and the blog isn’t a twisty, winding path of random nonsense.

    I actually got quite a big response from my tattoos post, as well. Weird.

  9. Phew, that was a lot of comments.

    Regarding your last post, it won’t let me comment on the WeddingBells version, so I guess I’ll just say what I need to say here. EVERYONE dances to 80’s music, young and old alike.

    Save a Horse/Ride a Cowboy is actually one of the only karaoke songs I’m actually *good* at… it nearly won me a contest on our last cruise ship (true story) but I had to bow out of the competition because the Pub Tour in Victoria, BC sounded WAY MORE AWESOME than karaoke. And, let’s be honest, it was.

    Also, if you’re going to learn to actually dance, I recommend the Cha-Cha. It’s a fun Latin dance, pretty easy to learn if the music is slow enough, and you can dance it to a great many pop hits from just about any decade. Past that, I’d say learn the Hustle (though I haven’t ventured into this one yet) and the Tango (just for fun).

    1. I tried dance lessons in the spring – I didn’t have the patience for the waltz so I doubt I’d last long in anything “ballroom” – especially the tougher ones!! I may stick with Bad Romance and bust it out sometime, haha 🙂 Although we are learning some sort of choreographed first dance – I’m terrified!!

      80s FTW – and I’m jealous of your Pub Tour 🙂

  10. Thanks for such a long comment! I’m the queen of long lol so it’s very appreciated 🙂

    Unfortunately, X Factor isn’t broadcast here either – I download most of the TV we watch from torrent sites; there’s a great UK one I could point you to if you’re interested!

    I think our mutual loathing of Ke$ha is pretty high up there – but glad you enjoyed the ST vid 🙂
    You say “If you are an indie person, then chances are you are not a mainstream person.” Which is perhaps why my music posts aren’t hits – I’m definitely an indie person, but I can appreciate what’s in the mainstream if it’s good, and has some kind of message or substance, a catchy tune that makes me dance around my kitchen, or is really creative and different to the churned-out tripe that satiates most frequencies these days. That’s why I love Internet radio – you can pick the stations that focus more on emerging, unsigned, or non-mainstream stuff and hear what you want to. 🙂

    And tangents are the best!

    1. Maybe it’s an issue of “being able to appreciate” something versus flat-out liking it. I can appreciate that people enjoy LOST, I’m just not one of them.

      I cannot, however, appreciate Ke$ha. Katy Perry I rather like, though, but her music is pretty simplistic/superficial, but sometimes that’s what I want out of my Pop music. I can also see why people don’t like her. Admittedly, I haven’t listened to her entire album(s), so I guess I’ve barely scratched the surface of what her producers deemed high enough quality to release on the radio.

      Lady GaGa I’m actually nuts about, but it’s as more of a symbol than simply for her music (though I love her music as well). She’s the person who’s proud to be different, and that makes her a bit of a hero to me because she encourages others to be proud of it too. I could, actually, go on and on about how big a fan I am of her, and why, and why I’m not crazy, but I’ll save that for another day (or a different channel).

      I only said the broadcast thing so I could make the “brilliant” joke… USAmericans don’t really say that (unless they learned it from the Harry Potter movies).

      Your music posts probably aren’t “hits” because even people like me don’t dig too far into blog posts of that nature. I’ll admit it. I have a friend who runs a photography blog and every day she posts Friday Phonics of a band/music video she’s currently into, and I just don’t read them. It’s not that I’m disinterested in what she (or you in the same scenario) thinks, but more like I don’t get that — I just get the music and I’m expected to enjoy it.

      Now, soliciting for music suggestions is way different, like the way you told me about Mumford & Sons through Twitter. My broadcast was set to “receive,” then, and had the context of music recommendations. Sometimes with blogs all I really want to know is what you think.

      That being said, I’m going to raid all your old music posts and comment where appropriate… just as soon as I get another free minute.

      1. Haha, I would love to see a post (hint) on why you love Lady Gaga. I’m a fan more of what she stands for than her music – which isn’t awful, but (IMHO) hit or miss – most of the radio hits are kind of generic, but still enjoyable, but Bad Romance? Possibly one of the best pop hits of our generation.

        I hadn’t realised “brilliant” was a joke! (Note to self: FINISH HP SERIES)

        And good point on the low musical hit count. I’m the same way with some of the blogs I follow when they write about things they’re really into that I just don’t get – to each their own. But also? You’re a star 🙂

        1. Fine. This isn’t the first time you’ve goaded me into a post topic, so I will take the ball and run with it. I actually had a long conversation with my wife on the way back from Copper Mountain this weekend specifically about Lady GaGa (because she was recently in town, some friends went to the concert and didn’t enjoy it because it wasn’t as much of a “spectacle” as they expected… sheesh) and why we’re both fans of her. Anyway, post will be forthcoming, after I read more of your music ones.

          By the way, 10 comments is not “chirping crickets.” I’m lucky to get 10 comments a month 😉

          “Brilliant” is the equivalent of us saying “awesome.” It’s funny to me when I speak in “foreign” vernacular, but, of course, I can’t do it in accent via the Internet, so the joke loses something. Still, I entertain myself, and that’s what’s important. (lol)

          I try to stay topical on my blog, mostly because my audience consists of writers who (even if they don’t comment) should find the posts beneficial if not downright hilarious. Then again, I write for myself (to express myself, not as an ego trip), so I can’t expect everyone to squee about what I’m interested in.

          1. True enough. I actually find it really interesting when posts DO take off and it’s something I’m not necessarily passionate about – the tattoo ones, or the “being healthy” one from Monday generated a lot of interest, but I’d hardly call myself a health enthusiast or a hardcore tattoo fiend lol. Then again I could write about music, or causes, or sci-fi… and just because I’m a big nerd about things doesn’t mean everybody else will be 🙂 Good point!

    1. I was the same way at first – I thought it’d be High School Musical all over again :S It’s really clever, and funny, and if you like music, you’ll love it 🙂

  11. So do you feel kind of cool for knowing who Mumford and Sons were before everyone and their mom did? Because if I was you, I would feel a little bit cool/smug. 😉

    I looked through my tags – #1 was “personal” (wow, vague tag, huh?). #2 was family. #3 was book reviews. Pretty accurate for me, I think!

    1. Haha, maybe a little – but more relieved that the world finally gave them the recognition they deserved 🙂

      I think yours are pretty accurate! I was surprised “nerdgasm” wasn’t higher on my list lol

  12. X-Factor is definitely a guilty pleasure for me – I especially love this stage with the auditions as you get such a mental mix of fabulous talent and also those idiots who think they are pop star material when they can’t even hold a tune.

    I’ll be glued to it until it ends. But I rarely would buy any music that came as a result of it. Although I actually bought Diana Vickers’ album last month and really like it. So perhaps it is turning me . . .

    1. I’m kind of glad Diana made it, she was always so quirky and different 🙂 Did you hear about how that crazy “release me” girl from last week got axed already because she had bad mental health issues? What’s scary is that she’s a single mum of a 3 year old…

  13. I think shows like Glee bring light to old songs that youngsters wouldn’t know nowadays…and I LOVE THAT. Same with X-factor and American Idol, even. When one contestant covered such hits as “Angie,” from the Rolling Stones and “Who’s Lovin’ You” by the Jackson 5, that makes me happy–cause it reintroduces great songs!

    My opinion: Stuff on the radio is CRAP right now, and anything that sheds light on older hits gets a thumbs up from me!!!

      1. And “Somebody to Love” – probably my favourite moment of the whole season. I’m just a sucker for big choral numbers of ANYTHING, but awesome old songs make it that much better 🙂

  14. I don’t think X-Factor causes any controversy on the charts…I think it’s ‘someone’ making music! As soon as someone judges ‘art’ – whether or not you believe it’s art it’s something creating something that expresses something…whatever, it’s art – then you are starting on a slippery slope. If we don’t like the songs or don’t like the words then it’s fine to express that opinion but hey, everyone has the opportunity to put music out there. Just because it’s out there, it doesn’t mean it’s automatically on the charts…someone has to like the music and buy it so that it gets on the charts. The fact that X-Factor singles are always at the top of the charts means that X-Factor strikes some kind of chord with people that makes the relate to the ‘art’ – maybe it’s the story of the ‘little guy’ succeeding…whatever it is is inspiring people more than the rest of the music out there…so it’s hard to say that it’s ruining the charts but maybe better to say it’s inspiring the nation more than anything else at the moment.
    Again, as a pure music lover, I’m not going to say that I think X-Factor singles are as good as Dylan or Waits…but it’s hard to argue with results!

  15. I wouldn’t say I’m a crazy Glee fan, but I do watch the show and like it. I absolutely adore some of the songs they’ve done. I don’t listen to much mainstream music and the only kind I do listen to is the kind that will pump me up at the gym. (Sadly, Katy Perry is in that list. But only for running! I promise!) The lyrics some of these “artists” are putting out nowadays are just flippin’ ridiculous! I don’t understand how they think it’s MUSIC when they don’t seem to be contributing much to the history of music by their songs.

  16. I am smiling at your talk about showing your age Emily. 🙂 I will not show mine by telling you a list of what I listen to.
    It is true that music is entirely subjective. Did you know that listening to music requires more different parts of our brain to work together at one time than any other activity we can do? Except one…making music.
    People, are like snowflakes no two are the same. That explains a lot.
    I for one suspect that I have some sort of musical autism that hasn’t been discovered yet. I don’t think I’ve met anyone like me. I can listen to the same thing over and over again if I love it. I once listened to Dave Matthews and nothing else for a couple of months straight. This leaves not a lot of room for new music as I’m too busy listening to what I already love so I have been out of the loop for a long, long, time and I’m perfectly fine with it… Though I’ll admit to being in love with Glee. (ok, having re-read that, I’m not in love with it enough that I would want to listen to the music, but it’s a lot of fun to watch!)
    I often think that we have become so used to being fed simplistic pop for so long, that complex music is becoming difficult for many to appreciate. I wonder if some brains just haven’t developed the wiring for it. Sigh, it makes me sad.
    Think about it. A few hundred years ago, Mozart was a bit of a pop star. Imagine.
    Thanks for yet another good read!

  17. This is an excellent post and may be one that you should followed up to see what happens

    A close friend e mailed this link the other day and I will be desperately anticipating your next content. Carry on on the quality work.

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