The X Factor and the Cult of Disingenuous Outrage

8 Oct

From the sublime to the “Why the hell am I still watching this?” Yes… I promised (threatened?) an X Factor blog, and here it is.

So… Last night the judges were split. They couldn’t decide between Shania The Twain and   a man so gay, disco balls tilt towards him in nightclubs. It went to the public vote, and wouldn’t you know it, Britain voted for Shania-like to leave.

“Fix!” Yelled the great British public. “Did anyone else notice that person having a word in Louis’ ear before the judges made their decisions?” But whoever that person was (probably a runner), last night’s episode of The X Factor suddenly became (at least on the Twittersphere) a gaudy, musical reimagining of Oliver Stone’s JFK. 

But is anyone genuinely surprised? Has everyone forgotten that The X Factor is a successful business, or at least one branch of a very successful business? It’s not a philanthropic organisation, dedicated to tracking down and promoting raw talent. To paraphrase David Hare and Howard Brenton’s Pravda, Simon Cowell is a businessman, first and foremost. If he was watching the show from his sprawling, subterranean lair in Los Angeles, and if he did phone the producers and have them lean on Louis to split the vote, so what? What did you expect? Lose the utterly annoying but very watchable Rylan, and the ratings might slip. Annoying acts staying in the competition way beyond the point when they should have been voted out are as much a staple of the show as Dermot’s hugs and Louis’ dribbling at every boy band. And talking of Louis, if I was going to rely on anyone to participate in some dastardly scheme, he’d be my last choice.

“The name of the act you’re sending home, Louis?” Asked Dermot.

After what felt like 4 years of Louis looking like a startled koala in the path of an oncoming truck, Louis replied, “I’m going to go with Carolynne. I want to keep Carolynne.”

“Startled koala” – X Factor judge Louis Walsh

Which wasn’t what Dermot asked. Clearly.

“You want to save Carolynne and send Rylan home?” Asked Dermot.

“I want to save Rylan…” Said Louis, his brain now leaking out of his ears like strawberry milkshake.

Having become somebody’s 88-year-old Nan trying to navigate her way around a branch of Hollister, Louis left it to the public vote, and the rest, as they say, is history. Dull, predictable, not-particularly historic history.

Carolynne stood there looking all Joan-of-Arc dignified, Rylan cried out one of his own kidneys, and Gary Barlow stormed off in as much outrage as Gary Barlow can muster (which is only marginally more outrage than Pam Ayers after discovering she’s run out of marmalade of a Sunday morning.)

The audience booed (despite, presumably, consisting of the same public who voted for Rylan in greater numbers than they did Carolynne) and in his network of caves deep beneath the Hollywood Hills, while bathing in a tub of One Direction’s sperm like some latter-day Countess Bathory, Simon Cowell purred, “Gooood… Gooooood…”

But even if the public vote was influenced by giving Rylan more airtime and the judges’ vote was influenced directly by the evil Baron Von Cowell, this is how it works. This is how it always works. While providing a far from realistic insight into how the music industry operates (I can’t quite imagine anyone making Tiny Tempah do a “BeeGees Night” before signing him up to their label), it does mirror just how cynical that industry can be. Ultimately, Simon Cowell’s genius lies in taking the audition process, something time-consuming and costly, and turning it into something that makes money, while simultaneously acting as a publicity campaign for multiple acts. The minute The X Factor costs more money than it generates, there will be no more X Factor. So why would he or anyone involved risk all that for the sake of genuine talent?

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2 Responses to “The X Factor and the Cult of Disingenuous Outrage”

  1. BenLikesMusic (@BenLikesMusic) October 8, 2012 at 10:21 am #

    I read the other day that many of the ‘final twelve’ or however many it is were actually approached to audition rather than do so of their own accord. I’m not sure why I gave a second thought to it, it just struck me as odd.
    On another (semi-related) note, I read a tweet from a 6 Music DJ yesterday where he was in a lift with two of One Direction. With tongue firmly implanted in cheek he asked them ‘Which direction? to which one of them replied, in all seriousness, ‘One’.

  2. thedaillew October 8, 2012 at 10:26 am #

    That’s brilliant! Like Alvin Stardust’s mother, in the 1970s, answering the phone, “Hello. Mrs Stardust speaking.” Seriously.

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