Posts Tagged ‘Britney Spears’

The X Factor – Quarter Final

December 3, 2008

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.

Never Mind The Buzzcocks

November 14, 2008

Ever since a loose collective of Metallica fans in Boston ripped the culture industry a new arsehole, we’ve been promised a new dawn in music.

The internet was talked about in the early part of the decade as a cross between the Russian Revolution and the second coming of Christ. Papers foretold a world in which the oppressed music fandom proletariat would rise against the industry, behead our evil corporate overlords and instigate a new world order where bands could reach fans while leaving out the coke-addled suit in the middle.

Instead, what we got was a world of Sandy Thom. Nowadays, it’s completely normal for a music label to reach a four figure settlement with a teenager who downloaded nursery rhymes. 

Music hasn’t got better, only more prolific. There are more bands, singers, songwriters and dancers. More record labels, industry types, music blogs and music fans. 

Everybody is a critic, and the word ‘critic’ has been diluted so much that no music critic ever dares to criticise music. From that irritating, snivelling fan-boy Zane Lowe, who churns out superlatives like a thesaurus on a crack binge, to the cretinous scenester twunts at the NME, the music industry regularly pops out a vertebra, bends over backwards and fellates itself silly. 

The music industry seems to have survived a major assassination attempt.   

Which is why it’s still a godsend that we have a programme like Never Mind the Buzzcocks. For the last 22 series, NMTB has gathered an assortment of artists, musicians, singers, industry types, actors and dancers and torn apart their dignity with the elation and precision of a sadistic dentist. 

It has insulted national treasures, pretentious artistes, nihilistic rock stars and desperate round-eyed pop singers. As the series has progressed, with new hosts, team captains, rounds and guests, this is the one thing that has remained stable, and will remain the reason that audiences tune in. People often criticise the comedy-quiz genre for a lack of spontaneity and originality, confused as to why people still tune in.

However, while you still have a preposterous and self-congratulating music industry, you will still have people that want these musicians taken down a peg, and you will still have Buzzcocks. The producers signalled as much by hiring Amstell. 

A good host is the cornerstone of a good comedy quiz show. Mark Lamarr, in this department, was a tonic. Part comedian and part music nerd, he acted as the ill-tempered guardian of respectable music. He had a weighty yardstick with which he would bash his guests over the head by. Namely: contribution to music. 

If you were in a well-respected band he might let you off lightly, while if you were a leech on pop’s anus he would tear you down with manic glee. As the series progressed he got increasingly cynical until he called it a day, retiring to a radio career where he plays obscure sixties songs.  

Amstell, however, is not Lemarr 2.0. He entered the music industry as an apathetic presenter of a by-the-numbers pop music show. It eventually became a cult hit due to his presenting style, which included insulting about 90% pop stars doing the rounds. While other pop presenters were grinning from ear-to-ear, congratulating McFly on their latest single, suggesting it is their favourite so far and generally patronising the viewer senseless, Amstell was coming on to notoriously homophobic dancehall star Beanie Man, saying Katie Melua’s first album was ‘so bad it made me want to puke my guts out’ and making Britney cry.

And here lies the main difference between Lamarr and Amstell. Lemarr might simply insult you because your band is the flavour of the week. His increasing cynicism towards the role made you suspect he still believed that somewhere there was a molecule of respect in the music industry which his show was failing to represent. He seemed to believe it was an industry worth saving. 

Amstell, who has admitted before he has ‘doesn’t know anything’ about music, sees it as a doomed industry ripe for the picking. On Buzzcocks, Amstell doesn’t so much as mock rubbish music as perform character assassinations. On any day he can be as cruel and as witty as Lemarr, his twee fuddling presenter shtick forces guests to let their guard down before he sticks the knife in. While Lamarr might have mocked Preston from The Ordinary Boys for being a pretentious arse, Amstell caused him to walk off by quoting choice bits from his wife’s biography. He sees the façade of celebrity and brings the contestants back down to earth. 

Anybody who saw the recent episode with James from Glasvegas will realise he’s steadily gaining confidence in the role. The official NEXTBESTBANDINTHEWORLD according to the self appointed indie bible, the NME, he seemed content to do the dark and broody thing until Amstell mentioned a song he wrote about his father. 

Annoyed, James decides to insult Amstell’s gaudy cardigan. ‘Oh, as if you could see this thing with those deeply pretentious sunglasses on’ returned Amstell. James shut up, confused.

James will probably appear on the chat shows and have Jonathan Ross explain how much of a fan he is. He’ll get put on the NME’s cool list.  He’ll do interviews with Zane Lowe, who will call him the best guitarist in the last 25 years – something he says about six people per week. He’ll do stadium tours, get a coke addiction and release a second album, by which time nobody will care. He’ll probably realise that the one person he talked to in his walk towards fame who said what he and other people actually thought about him was Amstell. 

That’s why people keep tuning in. With the music industry showing little sign of falling as predicted and with Amstell hitting his stride, it’s hard to see an end to Never Mind the Buzzcocks.

So long as there’re pop stars, rock stars, singers, dancers, producers, guitarists and icons, there will be bored people on a Thursday evening who want to watch them get taken down a notch.

MTV VMA Awards, 2008

September 9, 2008

You’ve probably read about this little storm in a hairy teacup in the newspapers and either a.) had a chuckle to yourself about it or b.) brushed over it, turning the page in your periodical, distinctly unimpressed. You may even have tuned in last night. If you did, I congratulate you on your bravery.

Despite the few laughs that could be gouged from the miniscule slots the host was given, the rest of it was a squalid load of crap. Mainly advertising, endless advertising – each ad break longer than the content that followed – with a few absymal performances from modern pop artists afterwards, sandwiched between shots of Britney looking confused.

Brand was on form though. Despite obvious nerves he managed to make a provocative call to action from the off, pissing off half his crowd immediately by championing Barack Obama. And then he called Bush a retard. It was interesting not in the fact that any wit was involved, more for how the likes of Britney and the Jonas Brothers looked all confused at some unabashed political provocation whilst the likes of LL Cool J and Lil’ Wayne instantly became Brand-fans, showing their love later in the show.

The highlight for me though was the constant ridiculing of the Jonas Brothers (which I noticed was cut mercilessly in the UK edit having spent time scouring the web for clips yesterday. Presumably to keep that JoBro shitheap of a band happy).

It was grand that RB didn’t leave it at mocking the ostentatious and passive aggressive practice of wearing celibacy rings, but continued a filthy tirade against the purity of the utterly unlistenable Brothers Jonas that became more and more winningly crass as it went on. You even started to pity the boys. A bit.

The defining moment, for me, was when ex-American Idol winner and award presenter ‘Jordin’ Sparks – they clearly don’t have spellcheckers in American birth registers – retorted to Brand’s celibacy-ring mockery with ‘I’d just like to say that purity rings are not stupid because not all of us want to be sluts!’ – thereby telling half her teenage audience that she thinks they’re whores if they’ve ever had a little bit of hanky panky. The fucking idiot.

The bizarre thing about the VMAs was that it was noticably split right down the centre. You had the hip hop artists on one side and the teeny pop shit on the other. Though it’s often hard to tell the difference as all genres seem fused and spliced these days (yes, I am old), it was nice to see Brand break the audience neatly into a divide, with liberal America on one side and dribbling, hypocritical funda-mentalists on the other.

And now for another fucking ad break.