The X-Factor - polishing turds for our consumption


The X-Factor is killing music. Fast. Each year it pulls turds off the street and polishes them, demonstrating that with a bit of glitter, a laser show and some exotic dancers any turd can be captivating. But how long before the sheen wears off and the stinking turd shows through?

Let's be sure about one thing. The X-Factor cannot last. Its hold on our attention is limited by an ironic and (hopefully) fatal Shakespearean style character flaw. The show purports to find and nurture acts with the 'X factor'. But it's scientifically impossible for any X-Factor winner to posses the tiniest sliver of ‘X factor'. In fact, the show can only succeed in excreting the exact opposite of what it sets out to do. Let me explain.

X-Factor auditions demonstrate that being a good singer is about as useful as having a degree nowadays. The market is flooded. To reach that extra mile music needs life experience, attitude, a point of view and/or heartache driving it. It requires relentless gigging - singing full songs, in a set - in front of morbid smatterings of cynical hecklers and bored drunks.

You cannot manufacture the 'X factor' by making performers sing a quarter of a song a week. A quarter of someone else's song at that. Songwriting has died a death leaving our musical landscape dominated by tepid covers of tepid yester-hits? If you want to 'make it' as a singer surely karaoke is a terrible way to start.

That's why the winners will never be remembered. Sure some go on to sell records. Leona Lewis seems to be the UK's greatest success. But she doesn't even write her own songs. OK she co-wrote a couple of tunes because Simon Cowell "allowed her to" but it's not the same. A songwriter doesn't write songs because one of the ‘suits' allowed them to. They write because they have to. Because they can't do anything else. And because our lives are constantly belittled by the men in suits.

Leona has an amazing voice. Just imagine if she was singing her own songs – straight from the heart. Like Amy Winehouse. But what Leona sings about can never ring true. Consider her life experience. She entered a competition, won it and became a millionaire. I feel no connection. If anything she makes me feel like a loser. Lucky cow.

Besides that, how could I ever connect with any act that has been so brutally homogenised? X-Factor contestants are trained to stand in line, grin at the camera and perform a synchronised drop to the floor on the final beat of the song. Each week they sing in a different style. Abba week; show-tunes week; big-band week. Failure at any one of them means instant elimination. The triumphant acts, having been shat out of this funnel, are all but indistinguishable from each other. And from this grey porridge a winner is chosen.

The winner is then plucked, groomed, polished, tweaked and perfected beyond all recognition. Every last shred of uniqueness surgically removed faster than a cancerous tumour, until the victor is smooth and shiny enough to entertain the masses.

And collectively, the masses say ‘oooh'. Until next year's X-Factor when the banal circus fires up once again and the previous year's winner is long forgotten.

At the same time, we are living through the worst economic times in living memory. The need for a ‘movement' to galvanise and unite people (especially the young) has never been stronger. With glittering lights, glamorous costumes and familiar songs X-Factor, has taken our eye off the ball. There is no message any more other than ‘maybe you could be the next celebrity'.

At the risk of sounding like an embittered old fart (an accurate description) I can honestly say that things were better in the old days. The days before X-Factor. Here's why.

When making desperate pleas for your votes, X-Factor contestants beg, ‘I want this sooo bad. It has been my lifelong dream and I love being onstage. Please vote for me.' Me me me. I want to be a celebrity. X-Factor contestants are only in it for themselves.

But pre-X-Factor musicians had something to say. Something we all could benefit from. They had something to GIVE. And those with the best songs or the best messages or even better, both, became stars. They were in it for all of us.

Music has no teeth or balls any more. Rasta is nothing more than neat dreads and Bob Marley posters. Punk reduced to designer T-Shirts, pre-torn jeans and tight, shouty pop music. Rebellion has become a fashion statement. The individual voice is inaudible in a sea of white noise; our culture adrift in a population spellbound by trivia.

X-Factor and its shiny turds are killing the real meaning of music for a whole generation of young people. Music – and by that I mean music written by youth for youth – needs some rock'n'roll. And entry level rock'n'roll must be about rebellion, non-conformity, teen angst and/or broken hearts.

I am old. Too old for rebellion. But I could never follow X-Factor. I can't bring myself to debase, degrade and humiliate myself on such low grade heroin. I try to point out that by watching X-Factor people are watching polished turds. But no one listens. They just look at me as if I am mad. And it saddens and angers me.

We have become what television tells us to be.

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