Monday, December 22, 2008

Is Simon Cowell killing music?

You don't have to watch it? Just try and live your life without knowing a thing about the X-Factor. It's impossible.

Oh how many times have I heard it: "Why do you moan about the X-Factor? Who's forcing you to watch it". Really? So how is it that someone who lives abroad still knows, without watching a single minute of the whole show, that someone called Alexandra won it? But this is the thing: the "you-don't-have-to-watch-it" brigade have obviously never heard of the word marketing. They're like pawns on a chessboard and they're not even aware of it.

Like Big Brother, the astronomic money behind the X-Factor ensure that it's everywhere. You read a paper, any paper, and there are at least a couple of pages and big photos dedicated to it. And let's not get started on the magazines. The day Alexandra won, BBC News online gave it more prominence on the home page than the death of two British soldiers in Afghanistan or the cholera outbreak in Zimbabwe. It's like those saying "no need to whinge, just avoid McDonalds" except that if you plant one at every corner it's quite obvious that you'll walk into one sooner or later, if anything for a jimmy riddle.

And how about the other cliche, "Oh come on, the X-Factor or Pop Idol are just harmelss entertainment". We already spoke about the disturbing political message of the ode-to-our-boys Heroes. On another level, former winner Steve Brookstein was spot on when he recently accused the X Factor of "turning music into the WWF". "It’s about killing music to make light entertainment", he said. Bite the hand that feeds you and all that, but how can you disagree?

Let's have a look at it while we try and keep snobbishness at bay. Cheesy, manufactured charts pop has always existed. Back in the 70s The Supremes and Bay City Rollers were driving teenagers mad. And for all their posturing, the Sex Pistols themselves were a band assembled and manufactured by Malcolm McLaren. In the 80s you had Bros, Bananarama, the GoGos and dozens of others. But all of them put together were nowhere near as cumbersome as the whole X-Factor phenomenon. What we have now, courtesy of Simon Cowell and friends steamrolling their "product" into every living room in the country, is a whole new generation brainwashed into thinking that the X-Factor is the be all and end all of music. Anything outside of the pop or R & B styles is not even worth a look.

Here is a massive TV circus that is to music what Greggs is to haute cuisine. Aside from the contestants not even singing their own songs, they are treated like blank canvases whose sole aim is to impress Simon Cowell, Louis Walsh and the two plastic dolls on their side (of which, for unfathomable reason, one is on course for the Bless-Her Award of the Year). It's like, forget your personality or individuality, the whole thing is about having a load of desperate young people begging the Emperor of Trash Music for a chance. "I'd do anything. Whatever it is you're looking for, I can give it to you. Please, I can do it. Just listen to this vibrato. Didn't the last X-Factor winner also sing like this?".

And they've got a point. What Simon Cowell is looking for is more of the same to feed the humongous beast of a mass market he's created. The X-Factor is where music ceases to be a form of art. It's where you should forget about pushing the boundaries, searching for something new or re-inventing genres, those 'talents' are only there to be given a song, churn out a no.1 single and fatten Simon Cowell's fund to purchase more of his beloved nipple-tickling trousers.

Just imagine if giving the public more of what they already have had been the dominant trend in the past few decades. Think of all those bands who ended up giving the public what they didn't even know they needed. Pink Floyd, Velvet Underground, Nirvana, The Clash. Would they ever have stood a chance?

I mean, when you look at the quick money the X-Factor or Pop Idol can generate, why should record companies invest money in obscure 'indie' bands finding their own route along the pub circuit when there's a freshly baked manufactured no.1 at hand? Of course no-one's saying that there won't be another Franz Ferdinand or Kaiser Chiefs. But, for sure, the X-Factor's bulky presence will halve their already meagre chances and push real musicians and bands further into obscurity.

And if that was enough to make you shake in revulsion, just remember the rumours that make Simon Cowell the winner of the Outstanding Contribution to Music at the next Brit Awards.

14 comments:

Anita said...

The only question left is: like Big Brother, how many editions will it take for the British public to get fed up with the X-Factor?

This is a great article, especially when it makes the point about "what the public wants". "What the public wants" is the excuse to justify the biggest trash. The way to look at it is another. If you shove it down their throat and stifle the alternative, it'll soon become the only thing the public feel familiar with -therefore want.

socialist sam said...

I must say kudos to you. It really is nigh-on impossible to ignore the X Factor. When you have any news broadcast in the country keeping you fully up to date with it, it just becomes very difficult to sidestep.

Robert Fletcher said...

The X-factor is for proper braindeads. Boreheads who can't even drag their own saggy bodies to a record shop. Idleknobs who can't even think for themselves when it comes to music. Cheesebrains who buy whatever is presented to them, no matter how many E, F and G numbers it contains.
To them, the X-factor is, no doubt, ACE.

Anonymous said...

Fuckin hate that shit. Glad it's over for the time being. But then there's the other 1 lined up isnt there... Pop Idol ;Britains got Talent, American Idol. Soemone pass me the bucket...

Stan Moss said...

The question was:

"Is Simon Cowell killing music?"

No, he's mangling it. Butchering it. Breathing sour breath on it. Feeding it hemlock.

niaccurshi said...

"I mean, when you look at the quick money the X-Factor or Pop Idol can generate, why should record companies invest money in obscure 'indie' bands finding their own route along the pub circuit when there's a freshly baked manufactured no.1 at hand? Of course no-one's saying that there won't be another Franz Ferdinand or Kaiser Chiefs. But, for sure, the X-Factor's bulky presence will halve their already meagre chances and push real musicians and bands further into obscurity."

This statement ignores the obvious...that if the winners are no good, they don't take the slice of anything. Steve Brookstein, Shayne Ward, Leon Jackson... are they really taking any of the limelight or money off of any of the other bands pumping shit in to our charts? The only out and out success story has been Leona Lewis and I don't think we can disagree with the fact she's got enough talent to deserve taking some of the pie.

It's frustrating that they've taken our Christmas number 1 away forever, but then in reality "good" xmas tunes never made it to number one anyway. Otherwise the impact that the show makes on disadvantaging anyone else is minor, at best.

claude said...

niaccurshi,
it's true that with the exception of Leona Lewis, all the people you mentioned didn't last any longer than 6 months.

But the trouble is, as they are churned out like booze in and out of a pisshead's guts, by the time one falls into oblivion, there comes X-Factor or Pop Idol Season 135.

Anonymous said...

Good god. It's hardly like indie bands havent done well since the X factor hit our screens???? What in the motherfuckin name of god are you blabbering about...

Ceri said...

depends what you mean by indie- anon. Indie bands in the sense of offering some alternative to mainstream music are as rare as they have ever been. If you mean guitar pop bands- then there are more than ever in the charts- there is a difference.
The worst thing about x-factor (well othe than the stuff already mentioned) is just how seriously everyone takes it. Isn't pop music meant to be fun?
Most people on the X-factor appear to spent their entire life crying- it just more manufactured, emotional 'reality'.

Anonymous said...

Niaccurshi wrote:

The only out and out success story has been Leona Lewis and I don't think we can disagree with the fact she's got enough talent to deserve taking some of the pie.

No, she won't make much money. About 10% of the million contract after tax. More than £300,000 goes on the music video, the rest on publicity, costumes, studio costs which are all paid for by the artist. Plus they spent a FORTUNE on "pushing her" in the USA. And you don't get a number one in America without someone pulling some strings. It's almost nothing to do with talent either, and don't let the media and the press fool you either!

Alexandra will make less than £100,000 when everything is paid for. Not exactly great really is it? And she's the one that will get hasstled in the street by fans. You can't even buy a house with £100,000 these days.

The main reason for my hatred of these shows though is everyone who wins will record a cover version. Cowell knows that whoever wins will go to number one regardless, so why bother with something new?

Look at the winners

Steve Brookstein {recorded against all odds by Phil Collins}

Leona Lewis {recorded A Moment like this by Kelly Clarkson and Run, still a fairly new song by Snow Patrol}

Will Young {recorded Evergreen by Westlife}

Gareth Gates {recorded Unchained Melody by the Righteous Brothers & duetted on The Long and Winding road with Young}

Leon Jackson {recorded by Mariah Carey & Whitney Houston}

Alexandra Burke (recorded Leonard Cohen's Hallelujia}

Even the losers that got deals did covers. For example Sam and Mark's {recorded The Beatles With a little help from my friends}
and Same Difference {recorded Breaking Free from High School Musical}!

I feel sorry for the artists more than anything as they've got about as much chance of becoming legends as an asteriod hitting earth this afternoon! Even Aretha and Whitney Houston needed great songs and that's what they got. Not other people's hand me downs.

thepatriot said...

Can someone bloody tell me why the f#&k 90% of X-Factor 'contestants' have to sing like a kinda Craig David/Kanye West soundalike? I don't normally agree with the stuff I see on this online rag, but this article has a valid point on the sameiness of X-Factor & peers.

Lady said...

1) On the X-factor "the panel" berate people not meeting their “yardstick”.

2) They belittle them

3) It's got the emotional depth of Barbie Girl by Aqua with an interlude having Cheryl Cole sobbing.

4) Its genres are extremely limited. Rock/indie/ anything with personality? Not for the X-factor

Madam Miaow said...

Yes, very good post, Claude. I still can't work out what it is about the piece that upset Dom to this extent.

Emma said...

The X Factor is artificial, plastic, e-number laden claptrap presented and created by artificial, platic, e-number laden idiots which is one of the main contributors of the dumbing down and thickening of our society. It's inescapable and poisonous, and the fact that the BBC are reporting it as 'real news' makes me want to hang my head.

What on earth is going on in this country?