And so the longest advert in history trundles on, destroying all that might dare to threaten the global dominance of Cowell et al. The contest itself is an irrelevance, a deus ex machina of neccessity in place to guarantee the further financial obliteration of all rivals and to homogenise the music industry so that it can be controlled by one man and his Blackberry.
There was a time when asset-stripping was a tactic reserved exclusively for the hardnosed Gordon Gecko’s of the world, but Cowell has admirably stepped into those shoes – cherry-picking the elements of art, music and culture that will make him the most profit and willingly discarding all that is extraneous and unnecessary. Even the songs the contestants perform are fractured into two thirds of their original length, just in case the audience become bored or there’s not enough space left for tie-in adverts, painfully repetitive VT autocues and phone number announcing.
It’s hard to blame the contestants here. Each have genuine talent and see the show as an opportunity to become recording stars. They naively believe they’ll be the ones to defy the curse of Cowell-meddling that will see them reduced to bargain bins and further reality show humiliation over the next few years.
It’s sad to think that, not only does that man resculpt the still growing identities of a number of teenagers to further his swelling bank account, he also does it under the guise of concern and consideration. He’s an evil soul – not the pantomime villain he plays – but the face of corporate greed, pummelling and psychologically bullying all in favour of a third house in Barbados.
The X-Factor didn’t used to get to me too much in the years past – it was always an ignorable piece of fluff that didn’t matter much. I’d watch the auditions for a laugh and then abandon the show as the remaining contestants were whittled down to the least offensive, most bland nadir and then roll my eyes at the woeful Christmas release that inevitably followed.
This year I’ve stayed with it all the way through – mostly at the bequest of my lady – and I’ve found my eyes opened to the summit of evil that the show really is.
The music industry is, by and large, a hugely corrupt and morally bankrupt industry. The X-Factor manages to represent that far better than any sharply-worded critique or snappily dressed indie anthem ever could. From the fawning faux-praise of the grown up Martin Prince that is Louis Walsh, to the bought-and-paid-for ‘controversies’ in the newspapers, this is not a television programme – it’s a vertically integrated business model that’s found a legally allowable method of advertising during the period in which networks are meant to be broadcasting content.
This week was Britney week. The overproduced pop princess decided to bestow a rare UK miming event upon us and so, as a result, we were forced to watch a clinically depressed redneck being forced to pretend to sing her latest vocoder-featuring single while a bunch of semi-talented amateurs all murder her previous hits by occasionally alternating the intonation on a couple of words.
Actually, scratch that, it wasn’t Britney week – it was Disney Cross-Platform UK Tween-Push week as the show also featured, inexplicably, an appearance by Kevin Federline fuckee-in-waiting Miley Cyrus and a ‘spirited’ performance of a High School Musical number by the shows resident dashboard-nodding grandson fantasy, Eoghan Quigg.
And yes, Britney – poor, poor Britney. If ever there was a warning shot across the brow of the contestants it’s Britney. Brought in to stumble across the floor, forget which lyrics to lip-synch to and to display no knowledge of what show she was on – she was a walking / talking advert for the destructive nature of fame. Still the contestants blithely waffled on about how fame and money were their dreams. It was like watching smackheads looking at an ODd corpse and not being able to make the connection.
Dead-eyed Britney was the low point of a show that has plumbed the depths more times than I can count. I wouldn’t object so much if it acknowledged its fakery, but it insists on ploughing ahead, repeating the lies enough times to be heard as truths – it’s about the artists, it’s about music, it’s about making people’s dreams come true.
It’s none of these. It’s about making money – huge, unimaginable piles of money – and may God have mercy upon whatever singers, songs, impressionable children and cultural legacies get in its way.